Morning Ed: Cities {2018.03.01.Th}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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176 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Ci6: This Battle has been going on since humans started to live in cities it at least until the 19th century. The soul side forgets several things, When Baron Haussmann redesigned Paris, French intellectuals hated it just as much Jeremiah Moss loathes what happened to NYC. Now, Baron Haussmann’s Paris is regarded as an essential part of Paris’ soul. The soul of a city can and does change overtime,

    The soul of a city isn’t necessarily a refugee for the misfists, outcasts, and down and outs. Most cities never were like that. Some cities had souls of religious devition like Mecca, Rome under the Popes, or Lhasa under the Dalai Lamas. Venice and Florences’ soul were merchant power. Others of imperial might and the conquere’s sword. The city’s soul being of bohemians and the out casts is a mid-20th century invention for the most part. It would not exist without suburbs.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq says:

      This might well be true but it seems largely peripheral to what the article argues. I don’t think Nathan Robinson would disagree with any of it, but he addressed in the article why it’s fairly irrelevant.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Bah, just another example of progressives wanting to be conservative.

      As if Robinson (and folks who think like him) are the curators of what constitutes a cities soul.Report

    • LTL FTC in reply to LeeEsq says:

      NYC isn’t getting appreciably whiter. What’s happening is that white ethnics in unfashionable outer-borough areas are leaving or dying out, turning the keys over to new immigrant groups while richer whites build up Manhattan and near Brooklyn. My heart bleeds for Moss and his ilk who don’t want to go to Bensonhurst for the mild thrills they used to be able to get in Manhattan. But not a whole lot.

      What Moss laments is the decline of a Jewish/Irish/Italian immigrant culture that was born not just of a specific place, but of a specific time. The same goes for lamenting the loss of punk declinism.Report

  2. Richard Hershberger says:

    Ci7: I lived in western Pennsylvania for a few years in the mid-1990s. I really liked Pittsburgh. It was still struggling as a post-industrial city, but the potential was obvious. I have been very pleased to see the potential come to fruition.Report

  3. Rufus F. says:

    Did anyone read that article all the way through?

    Okay, here’s the gist: there are two competing arguments about how cities develop. One, the Romantic argument, wants to see them frozen in amber as havens for artists and weirdos. I assume you all are opposed to that version, but it’s not really what the article is advocating.

    The competing argument he calls the efficient city argument- we could also call it the Bloomberg argument- is that change is inevitable and desirable and consists of raising rents and replacing the “undesirables” (Bloomberg’s unusually frank word) with their social betters. Yes, this involves evicting weirdo artists, but also the elderly, non-whites, the working poor, the mentally ill, ethnic communities, and anyone who can’t afford triple the rent. And it’s basically engineered that way. Bloomberg might have been unusually open about it, but this sort of class-based ethnic cleansing has become part and parcel of “inevitable change”.

    The problem is the argument has played out so that one vision has to win, and by totally destroying the other.

    So, he’s saying if he has to choose, he’ll pick the Romantics to side with, but mostly we need to oppose the argument that change can only happen by destroying people’s livelihoods, shelter, and basic right to exist outside if capital. We need another model. Desperately.

    I can’t believe that this is now the opinion that makes one a conservative, but if so, so be it.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:


      I read the article. I’m not a Bloomberg fan but I think the problem with people like Moss is that they have visions of how the world should be when it is not that way. Moss reminds me of the 1940s British Intellectuals who were mortified that British working class people liked Hollywood movies. How could there be true socialism if the working classes liked to watch Hollywood movies instead of doing traditional British folk dances?

      I get the nostalgist impulse but it forms at a time when our memories burn brighter because of our youth and needs a bit of caution. I loved walking around Williamsburg in the summer of 2002 with my friend while she looked for apartments. I loved my Brooklyn Brownstone apartment and I loved the ambling around NYC I did during grad school when I had a lot of free time. There are parts of me that would like that kind of life frozen in amber forever but it cannot be. We get old, we age, we need to move on.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Turns out the 1940s British Intellectuals were right.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        You read the article and that’s what you got from it? Or is that your issue with Moss? Because I think that’s essentially where the article breaks with Moss.

        Let’s set aside and move past the argument over nostalgia, which is usually a strawman anyway.

        In Toronto, as rents have skyrocketed, partly due to zoning decisions, and partly due to speculation (millionaires in other countries treating housing as a gambling chip) a great many people who are not rich, white, and young, have lost their housing. Many of them are subsequently fighting not to be evicted or otherwise forced out. In response, a local politico made the case that “shelter is not a human right” and it’s naïve to think it is. To be blunt, we now have many people in this area who are mortified that working class people like to live here among them where they’ve been living for generations. That’s the current form of snobbishness.

        So let’s call concern for other people’s wellbeing “humanism” (as it is) and the counter-argument “anti- humanism”. In practical terms, these are the positions on the ground. I simply believe you cannot be progressive and argue the line that the intended results of zoning decisions are a fact of natural law and something we should be defending. Because if you’re simply going to argue for the prerogatives of capital, there needs to be another term for it. And libertarian is already taken.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

          It’s only incidentally arguing for the prerogatives of capital.

          It’s that capital happens to be a member of the correct *CLASS*.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:


          I agree that something needs to be done to staunch the displacement of the poor, the elderly, the non-white, and general eccentrics . But what a lot of people seemingly want is unicorn and pony kind of policies without realizing that we live in an imperfect world and trade-offs are necessary.

          So I get a bit fed up with my artist friends (who generally came from solidly middle-class or above backgrounds) complain about high-rent but also complain when a “historic” building is up for sale or there is an announcement that the “historic” building is going to be turned into housing. This happened in my old neighborhood recently because an old and defunct kindergarten building is up for sale.

          I also get angry at aging hippies who bought their houses or lofts in 1970 something and scream “Down with Developers! Down with the man” in supposed solidarity with the poor while they are sitting on million dollar goldmines.

          Supply and demand exists. So if we want affordable housing, we need to build today, build tomorrow, and build as much as we can for the foreseeable future. Building also creates jobs.

          Developers are not the enemy. Home owners with too much equity in their property values are.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            To be blunt, where I live, developers are absolutely the enemy. I didn’t choose them as such, and certainly not over cultural preferences. However, being working class and living in an area whose “demographics” they aim to see “transformed”, I have had to chose sides with other renters against developers and politicians.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Maybe wanting a unicorn and a pony is the human condition. I’ve also seen people argue we need more public transit and to encourage public transit use but then balk at raising the gas tax because it will hurt “working families.” You encourage less driving by making gas more expensive. It is really that simple.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Rufus F. says:

          That city you like so much, with all that soul? Do you also like those clean, working public transit systems? Do you like that city employees make a middle class wage? Do you like clean public spaces, and attractive public art, and all the unseen infrastructure that keeps a city humming along? Museums? Concert halls? A score or more of other public amenities that I can think of (all of which need to be up to code and people want the employees to be well paid)?

          Because all of those take tax money, and let’s be honest, the people who make up that soul, don’t inject a ton of cash into the tax rolls. If you want nice things, you need that shiny, modern, efficient city to pay for it. Sure, you could make that tax money go further if there wasn’t so much corruption and graft in a big city, but a modern city still needs a lot of money to just function, much less grow, and the Bohemian community is not going to generate enough.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Jesus Christ, man! I’m arguing that I like having shelter that I can afford through hard work. It has nothing to do with Bohemian soul. I have a preference for shelterReport

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Rufus F. says:

              But shelter is not soul. Having a place to live in a city is different from whatever this ‘soul’ Robinson is going on about is. That’s a different discussion, and probably one that would involve rethinking an awful lot of priors and assumptions regarding how such a thing can be achieved in a modern city.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                But shelter is not soul.

                Neither is shiny, modern and efficient. Those are marketing concepts.

                What I’ve noticed watching a few towns go thru the phases of gentrification out here in CO is that poor hippies move into a town with low rents and give it some soul, then rich people, attracted to the soul of the town, move in and begin the cycle of turning the town into something shiny and modern so they can make cash. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. But the two communities – the poor hippies and the rich colonizers – have different objectives, goals and ways of life. The hippies are looking for a way of life, the rich(er) people are looking for a way to make money.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

                Soul is also a relative concept. What hippies generally find as soul, I do not.

                It is interesting that we define soul as grungy and divey. I’m not always a fan of things that look so modern that they give off an antiseptic quality but this doesn’t mean that I find dive bars full of soul either.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                What hippies generally find as soul, I do not.

                You don’t like good food, music and art?Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

                That’s awfully broad. What are you defining a hippie music, art, and food?

                I consider Truffaut movies to be good art, I don’t consider them hippie. I don’t consider most of the music I listen to as hippie. I consider Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn to be great painters but they aren’t hippies.

                The guy being the nine millionth street troubadour to do a soulful rendition of Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley imitation) is not so great.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                It gets murky, but I think there’s a difference between observing things and claiming *those things* – and therefore you by extension – have soul, and living/creating those things by expressing your soul. One of the weird phenomena of contemporary culture is that art has devolved to meta-commentaries about modern culture’s lack of soul and hyper-intellectualism which are viewed as an expression of soul (or high art, or whatever). Which is weird. I dunno. I haven’t thought too much about it so should probably shut up now. 🙂Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.

                ? Tennessee WilliamsReport

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Heh. Reminds me of that line in Ladybird: “Sacramento is the midwest of California.” The midwest is *everywhere* man.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

                Chicago seems strangely excluded.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

                He left Pueblo off as well.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

                When I think of “hippie”, I think of something very specific. Mainly of the kind of long-hair, beard, and tie-die set whether they remember 1967 or just try to imitate it.

                Some of the music from that era is good but it is something I enjoy all the time and the aesthetic is certainly not mine. As Oscar said, I like modern not homely. Now it doesn’t need to be antiseptic like a steel and glass building but Victoriana never appealed to me.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                How… convenient.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Neither is shiny, modern and efficient.

                Really? Because at times, I really like shiny, modern, and efficient. I mean, I can appreciate old and classic, and I usually do, right up until it is my job to maintain it, and keep it up to code, and all that other fun stuff.Report

              • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Oh yeah. If we are talking airports, subways, hospitals, roads then give me efficient 24/7/365. Save the character for later.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Really? Because at times, I really like shiny, modern, and efficient.

                “The marketing campaign is working!”Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Orrrrr, I’m a person who grew up living in houses and places with ‘soul’ and who makes enough money now to happily leave that all behind.

                ‘Soul’ is great, when it’s a choice, rather than all you can do to survive.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                It’s like people who voluntarily downsize and buy a “tiny house” so they can, as they say “have experiences and not stuff” vs. the person who got laid off, can’t find any more good paying work, and now lives in their RV.

                (I grew up in a family that was either frugal or poor, and there are certain things I just won’t do as an adult, even though I know I could save money doing them)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Right. Your preference is for shiny, modern and efficient over soul. Which is, as I was saying, how soul gets driven out of a town.

                Add: I live in a soulless town too!!!Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Or, as I said, people get tired of living with so much ‘soul’, because a daily struggle to survive gets old in a hurry.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Or, as I said, people get tired of living with so much ‘soul’, because a daily struggle to survive gets old in a hurry.

                Not to get all picky here, but comments like this gloss over all the interesting aspects of the discussion. What you say may be true of specific individuals, but it’s certainly not an accurate account of how a cities evolve from poor-but-interesting to rich-shiny-and-efficient.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Think of it this way, how many people, who are living day to day, or paycheck to paycheck, regardless of how much character they bring to a place, would not jump at the chance to not be living so close to the edge?

                For every story there is of a person getting priced out of a place, there is also a story of a person selling out of a place, because it gives them a chance to move away from that edge. And those folks getting priced out would probably be just as happy to sell out, if they had that option.

                ETA: IMHO, a lot of these discussions about the character/soul/etc of a city strike me as conversations with people who attend Ren-Faires without a clue as to the actual history. They want to enjoy the romantic image they have, and pretend the uglier parts just aren’t there. Which is fine as far as entertainment goes, but I wouldn’t be trying to set social policy by it.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Think of it this way, how many people, who are living day to day, or paycheck to paycheck, regardless of how much character they bring to a place, would not jump at the chance to not be living so close to the edge?

                We’re talking about two different things, Oscar: material interests and (for lack of a better word) spiritual interests. The fact that people in America would so cavalierly uproot for an economic opportunity just means those folks aren’t valuing their connection to place more than their desire for economic gains. That doesn’t mean there is no downside to thinking or behaving that way.

                On the flip side, as greginak points out, rootlessness is a value in America. It’s viewed as a good thing. So to the extent a person has internalized that value they won’t realize the potential cost or downside risk or have rationally determined that uprooting is worth the price. (Lots and lots of USAmericans don’t do this, tho! They stay put despite having economic opportunities elsewhere.)

                On the third side, lots of American cities and regions (etc) are pretty shitty places to live (they have no soul!), so no one – surely not you or me 🙂 – would begrudge their moving, even if it’s from one shitty place to another.

                The fourth flip is that there really are lots of nice places to live, and a bunch of them require tradeoffs wrt income potential to live in. And lots of people DO make that trade.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Perhaps what you see as soul, I see as character. Where I live (and I’m willing to bet where you live as well), there is a character of people being active outside. Lots of wilderness to explore, right on the urban doorstep. I like that about the character where I live, and that character isn’t affected by shiny, modern, and efficient; at least, not in a significant way.

                I’m willing to bet as well that the character that Robinson & Moss lament isn’t as gone as they imagine, but it has evolved*, or maybe just relocated. So what they really are doing is grousing about change that they don’t find appealing.

                I mean, @rufus-f has a valid complaint about “the rent is too damn high”, but beyond that, this whole discussion about soul strikes me as a complaint that the city isn’t the city they imagine remembering.

                *I read a fantasy story a while back about a group trying to restore a spirit, known as “The Old Woman of the Swamp” to the fantasy city that had taken over the coastal swamp. Turns out, the spirit was doing just fine, still doing her thing, she had just changed a bit, and rather than living in a giant tree stump, she was hawking wares along the docks when she wasn’t busy doing whatever spirits like her like to do. And she wasn’t amused by the group trying to kill everyone in the city and restore the swamp, seems she liked having people around.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I mean, @rufus-f has a valid complaint about “the rent is too damn high”, but beyond that, this whole discussion about soul strikes me as a complaint that the city isn’t the city they imagine remembering.

                I’m talking about something else, which gives an account of that complaint: people get attached to and want to remain in a place. When they see economic principles being advocated and implemented which makes it unlikely they can remain there they get pissed. The place could be a west coast city or the Appallachian hills or a farm community in Nebraska. In terms of urban living, tho, certainly part of the *allure* of a city is the goodies found there, including what some will view as its soul. The basic idea tho (following the writer I referred to earlier) is that people want to, or even need to, feel like they’re home, where “home” means more than the word “house”.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Sure, I get that, but this is life. I’m sure it was great when your ‘home’ could remain relatively unchanged for generations, or even for a single lifetime, but change happens faster these days, and let’s be honest, a lot of that push for faster change is at the urging of progressives. They want better services, and schools, and transit and everything else, and they want it sooner, rather than later, because justice denied or whatnot… and, back to my original comment, that all costs money. That means cities need larger tax rolls, which means they need more people, and/or wealthier people, and most of these cities can not annex the surrounding communities to boost things.

                So pick your poison, a city that let’s neighborhoods be ‘home’ for the lifetime of a person, or a city that tries to meet the ever changing demand for services.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Ahh. OK.

                {{good chat tho!}}Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m serious, how can people expect a neighborhood of a major metro area to maintain a specific ‘soul’ without either a large amount of subsidy, or a colossal amount of NIMBY-ism?

                Please, tell me how else such things are to remain static while all the other demands placed upon a city are met?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Please, tell me how else such things are to remain static while all the other demands placed upon a city are met?

                By not meeting those demands.

                Add: *some* demands are prioritized over others and need not beReport

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Those demands are for things like affordable housing, new/better schools, better/upgraded public transit, upgraded utilities, parks, sidewalks, public services, etc.

                I mean, we aren’t just talking about a demand for a new sports stadium here. And it’s not like ANY of the above things happen quickly.

                And why should the desires of a minority of people in a single, or even a handful of neighborhoods be prioritized over the demands of the rest of the population? Isn’t that NIMBY-ism by just another means?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Those demands are for things like affordable housing, new/better schools, better/upgraded public transit, upgraded utilities, parks, sidewalks, public services, etc.

                Affordable housing is only an issue after gentrification. Sidewalks? Really?
                New/better schools? You only need new schools if lots more people move in. Better schools? Not where I live, and we’re absolutely flush with school funding.
                Parks? You mean purchasing new parks? Why do that unless you’re city expanded? Are people really clamoring for new parks?

                These seem like things a city would spend money on to attract more people to move there (which sorta reverses the arrow of causality you mentioned above) and not (necessarily) things demanded from people already living there. (Tho townies tend to squeek a lot at local town council meetings. And about schools. Always schools, no matter how good they are.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                So, what you want is to freeze a neighborhood in amber. No new residents, no new business, nothing that can radically alter anything about a place (because that could cause gentrification, or the need for new schools, or changing wants in a neighborhood)?

                Well, we have such places, they are called “small towns” and they are all over America, except near big cities.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                No, I’m saying that city management can makes choice on what to prioritize. You seem to think they have only two options: spend more to attract more so they can spend more to attract more etc OR freeze the city in amber.

                Interestingly, CO Gov. John Hickenlooper broke one of the pernicious cycles decision-makers accept by saying he didn’t want Amazon to move to Denver. I think it was a gaffe, tho.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:


                A few weeks ago I was in a distant suburb of SF called Livermore. Interesting place because it is part Lawrence Livermore Labs and part Wine Country. A bunch of older residents (65 plus, probably more like in their 70s and 80s) was protesting with signs saying “More parking, less housing”.

                In the Bay Area, we clearly have older generations willing to keep their property values high and screw over their children and grandchildren who can’t afford to buy anything. Even Upper-Middle Class Professionals are being squeezed out of the housing market.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I wonder if opposing new construction is based on preserving their home value or preserving their views and such? We have a similar problem in Boulder: super high price for any unit, even the rental rate for crappy two bedroom apartments, and a town full of people opposed to loosening up construction regs. We’ve had scads of new condo complexes going up anyway, tho.* In four or five projects developers have purchased entire city blocks on the east side of town and built massive complexes below the height restriction. Going on nothing but my gutz, I’d be surprised if those units drive down prices for single family homes. Or rent, for that matter.

                *Thinking about that some more, it’s possible that the town *has* loosened up some of the regs. I really don’t know, but there’s been a wave of new construction for 6-7 years or so.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Also, just so you don’t get the wrong impression, the word “massive” is relative to Boulder norm, not what you’re used to in SF or NY.Report

              • Interestingly, CO Gov. John Hickenlooper broke one of the pernicious cycles decision-makers accept by saying he didn’t want Amazon to move to Denver. I think it was a gaffe, tho.

                Amazon says 8M square feet of office space over 15 years; call it a half-million per year. On the order of 2M square feet of space came on the market in Denver in 2017. On the order of another 2M square feet is already under construction, most of it pre-leased. There are multiple areas — RiNo, LoDo, LoHi (who makes up these neighborhood short-form names?), the Tech Center and further south — where you can’t turn around without banging into some sort of 6-to-30 story apartment and/or condo project. Hidden behind Hick’s statement is the fact that greater Denver is probably going to see HQ2-like growth even without Amazon.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Ironically, I think that the best thing for Amazon would be to move to a place where such growth would be happening without them.

                But, were they to do that, they wouldn’t be able to make Denver (or Colorado) dance on a string.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Amazon could leverage a sweet from Atlanta once Delta bolts.

                Oh wait: Amazon discontinued the discounts too, didn’t they…Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                If Atlanta manages to only have Amazon leadership visit between October and March, maybe.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Lyman Stone evaluated the Amazon demands and didn’t believe there was any place in America could meet them. In particular, what city can provide housing for 50,000 employees in 10 – 15 years. Here are the list of metropolitan statistical areas that added 5,000 units of housing from 2010 to 2015:

                St. Louis

                St. Louis, like some of these other cities, are experiencing poor growth, but they are adding more housing than cities with robust construction like Chicago and Seattle. Link A lot of cities are building more square footage of housing, but not housing units.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I don’t know what Lyman measures, but metro Denver added 3,500 houses and >10,000 apartments in 2017. Based on permits and construction underway, approx 12,000 apartments will be added in 2018. The amount of construction going on is staggering.Report

              • Here’s a picture of downtown Denver from last week. There are at least five construction cranes visible working on towers. This doesn’t include RiNo, or the Tech Center, or the Highlands.

                And it’s not like they’re about to run out of space. NW Denver has sizeable semi-blighted areas near the new Gold light rail line that will eventually be built out.Report

              • Anne in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Holy cow! I moved away from Denver in 2000 that’s a lot of new buildingsReport

              • PD Shaw in reply to Michael Cain says:

                1) He is using net change in housing units from 2010 to 2015, so if Denver added 15,000 units, while at the same time eliminating 5,000 units of housing, there would be a net change of 10,000 units.

                2) Then he is subtracting the number of new households formed during that period. So if there is a net increase in 10,000 housing units over a period in which 10,000 new households were formed in Denver, then Denver is at zero growth.

                No city appears to be in a position to add the amount of housing Amazon is projecting in the time period here. When did a typical housing unit that came on line in 2015 start in development? 2000?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

                You’d need a bunch of families with parents in their 60’s whose children have all moved away, or, for that matter, a city with a bunch of people (40,000 households’ worth) who have expressed a willingness to move away.

                Flint, maybe?Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

                The above list was made before Amazon made the first cut, and it looks like the Flint-like stories of rebirth didn’t make it.

                (For those who didn’t peak, he concluded Philadelphia was the closest to Amazon’s criteria, but not close at all. Also assuming Amazon is not trolling America)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                If you have a city with a natural or political Urban Growth Boundary, then you are very limited in what you can do when it comes to housing (and let’s be clear here, keeping neighborhoods intact is a housing issue, and nothing else). You can limit population growth as much as possible, or you can increase density. If you limit growth, you will, without question, have ever increasing property values if the city is even a remotely desirable place to live.

                Ergo, affordable housing crisis. Unless you have some magic way to get people to willingly accept less than market value for their homes when they turn over, or for landlords to not raise rents whenever possible (and rents will, at a minimum, have to rise with inflation, and they will rise more if a building changes hands, since the new rent will have to reflect any increase in the sale price). I mean, that is some serious market control you’d have to enact, or a hell of a lot of subsidies that need to be paid out. You just got done saying down thread that Boulder has a real problem with rising housing costs.

                Sure, a neighborhood can roll over the way @michael-cain describes, and I bet many do, as long as they aren’t seen as too desirable. Real estate prices have to be high enough to not be seen as a deal, but low enough to not trigger an affordability crisis. Again, that is some market magic if you can swing it. Some places can do that naturally, because the location is just not desirable enough, but we all know how quickly a small change can alter that calculation. A new employer, and new transit line, a new school, and suddenly your stable neighborhood is a hot commodity. Existing residents are gonna sell out, the new residents are gonna want to change things, and suddenly the ‘soul’ begins to conform to the new residents, as it should.

                Now if you want to increase density, something has gotta give. Most cities, especially those with an UGB, are not swimming in clear land. It’s either industrial, commercial, residential, or a park. People REALLY don’t like it when parks get tore up for new development (a place I lived did that once, tore up old parks to make room for shopping malls and such; not a lot of places for kids to play in that town, kinda sad). Turn over the industrial (read – superfund) or commercial [1], and, well, bye bye jobs. That leaves residential areas, and hey, look, they are already zoned for it! Tear up some old houses that are in need of some TLC and put up a residential tower[2]. And look, the character has changed.

                Listen, I get @veronica-d ‘s point, when the old place loses that familiar feel, people feel like the roots they had are torn out by other people, rather than pulled up by their own selves, and that is disconcerting. It feels violating. On the rare occasions when I return to the places I grew up, or even Madison, where I had some roots, the changes can be hard to take. Wild places I used to play are now housing developments. Two of the houses I grew up are both gone, the trees I played in, cleared away, the barns I explored, razed. I tell my son stories about those places, he loves to go to sleep hearing about them, and he’ll never see them. Yeah, it’s a bit heartbreaking that all I have are the stories.

                But change will happen. It is the height of foolishness to think that what you knew will remain recognizable. We are humans, we put down roots, not foundations, and the nature of roots is to adapt to change. The tree grows and the roots are constantly shifting as the conditions around them change. Root systems expand toward resources, and contract when resources vanish, or areas become hostile. Roots are always changing, and only our own nostalgia for the past enables us to forget this truth.

                [1] Arguable cities should exhaust mixed use residential and commercial before tearing into established neighborhoods. I think it’d be great if the next time a big box or mall gets torn down, it got replaced with a mixed use complex that was well thought out.

                [2] Relatedly, cities should be demanding that developers make more of an effort to include feature that encourage high density complexes to become a community. Rooftop or courtyard green spaces, general purpose spaces (for parties and such), pools, play rooms, etc. Hell, subsidize such things if it helps get them in the design, anything to help the complex develop as a neighborhood.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                But change will happen. It is the height of foolishness to think that what you knew will remain recognizable.

                The second sentence doesn’t follow from the first sentence except on a really long timeline.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Is 20 years a really long timeline? That’s how long it’s been since I last knew my childhood homes still stood. I imagine cities can change even faster, since there is greater incentive for it.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I really don’t know what we’re discussing any more, to be honest.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                Two, or maybe three, competing ideals:

                1) The desire for a neighborhood to maintain it’s aesthetic character.
                2) The desire for affordable housing.
                3) The desire for people to be able to acquire and dispose of property in accordance with their desires and/or needs.

                These three things are in constant tension. IMHO, 2 & 3 are things we have to try and reasonably manage. Number 1 is nice if you can swing it, but it’s a distant secondary concern. The essay linked in the OP, and what a lot of people here seem to be arguing, is that 1 is more of a primary concern.

                My position is that when 1 can challenge or trump 2 &/or 3, you have NIMBY-ism.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The essay linked in the OP, and what a lot of people here seem to be arguing, is that 1 is more of a primary concern.

                Well for lots of individuals, it IS a primary concern. But I haven’t been arguing that it’s a trumping concern. I’m just agreeing with those folks that it’s a legitimate a concern and that it should be taken seriously. From my pov, I’ve been pushing against your view that it shouldn’t be a concern at all and even more, that it’s an impossible concern to realize in policy.

                Maybe we’re talking past each other, but I don’t think so. I think we just disagree about this stuff.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                It’s not impossible to realize with policy, but it is a dangerous line to walk when it comes to policy. If 1 is important to a neighborhood, I’d say, rather than trying to get city hall to protect your neighborhood, I’d lobby my neighbors to start a HOA/Neighborhood Association with enforceable by-laws and all that. Get as many people as you can to sign on, make it a condition of buying into the neighborhood, etc.

                Leave 2 & 3 to city hall, that is what policy is for. If city hall wants to get involved in 1, they can create some resources and draft some boilerplate HOA charters, etc., help people make it happen.Report

              • No new residents…

                From the descriptions, not no new residents, but a constant turnover so that the demographics remain unchanged. 30 years ago, when we moved into our current house, the block was full of 30-somethings with 2.4 children. Today the block is largely 60-somethings with no kids at home. But slowly turning back over to the original state as people decide to downsize, and couples with kids move in.

                Even many small towns are not caught in amber — they’re drying up and blowing away as the residents die off.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon — It’s not about freezing communities in amber. It’s about rootlessness, sadness, and loss. It’s about broken people who have lost their connection to their communities, uprooted, “put somewhere” — or else left to drift. It about big money in fewer hands, with so many others just kind of existing.

                Sure, that new condo building is attractive. They new office park is well lit. It feels “nice,” but not really. Something is lost. This is not merely aesthetics. On the other hand, aesthetics matter. It is the context of our lives. None of us are so shut off that we do not feel the world around us. It’s the little things, but all the little things around us add up to one gigantic huge thing that turns out to be everything.

                Sure I love the new queer friendly, swank cocktail bar that has opened near my apartment, with its clean modern lighting and colorful drinks in oddly shaped glassware. It’s nice.

                But my community is filled with loneliness and distraction. My ADHD mind can deal, cuz my brain flits here and there and never could set down anyhow. But the people, their connection to their communities, the “folkways” that gave them a sense of belonging — that’s disappearing.

                Something is lost.

                If you want to spend the time, read everything on this blog:

              • Chip Daniels in reply to veronica d says:

                I’ve been thinking lately of Avalon, that wonderful movie by Barry Levinson.
                For those not familiar, it tells the story of a Jewish Polish family who immigrate to America, and the changes to the succeeding generation as they slowly assimilate.

                The assimilation is simultaneously a process of rising prosperity, but also a process of slow disintegration.

                The original immigrant family was tightly knit and keenly aware of their cultural heritage and history, but also of their status as unwanted outsiders.

                The assimilated generation are happily enmeshed in the American culture as insiders, but at the cost of losing connection to their past- they change to Americanized non-ethnic names, for instance.

                Its that ambivalence I am thinking of, of how the very changes we think of as bringing benefits like greater freedom and autonomy also rupture our connections to each other., about how the comforting embrace of culture and tradition is also suffocating and oppressive.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                On a related note, when I worked as a tech in the bay area, I had a lot of African American co-workers, many of whom split Oakland for the exurbs as soon as they were 1) in a fairly high paying job and 2) when “Urban Pioneers” wanted to pay for there falling apart, expensive to maintain, old homes. They gave not one whit for Soul at the expense of school districts, non-lead plumbing and other incidentals of modern life.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                It sounds like the questions you asked were intended for Robinson instead of me, or really for Moss who wrote the book on NY losing its soul that he’s writing about.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Rufus F. says:


                Probably true. I mean, I’m hear you about affordable housing and all. As much as cities run on tax money, they also run on working class people keeping the economy humming along. And with so many cities, I find it very interesting that the very people who decide what constitutes acceptable affordable housing are more often than not people who have never had to really think about how to afford housing. Thus the affordable housing they envision is anything but, and often requires considerable subsidies.Report

            • PD Shaw in reply to Rufus F. says:

              People NEED shelter, but in the Anglo-sphere at least, they WANT a home. They want a space for themselves and their family, not dependent on the whims of their employer, rentiers or the state. I think the inability of the middle class to obtain a home is one of the most powerful arguments against whatever economic conditions underlay it.

              And one can be romantic about home, particularly since it doesn’t have any fixed meaning.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I agree. And going a little bit off-thread here, I just read a book on death and dying and one of most prominent themes the author focused on was how death-phobic Americans are. The Cliff Notes version of the account: Americans have no connection to *place* in any meaningful sense. We’re uprooted. People want to be rooted.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Stillwater says:

                That feels true to me. I can’t go to my relatives’ graves on Memorial Day (which I guess used to be a thing) because I live 1000 miles from them. (And I shudder to think how people would manage if I met an untimely end: my aging parents are 700 miles away, my brother and his family are more than 1000. Unless I were to directly specify “Just burn down my house with my remains in it,” someone would have to come and deal with things….this is sadly top of mind because a friend of mine died v. suddenly this weekend and his nearest relative is having to fly in from another CONTINENT to take care of stuff)

                I also realize how rootless I am when people who have lived here all their lives get on to talking about what Jack did the last night of high school or they mention some woman and say to the other person, “Oh, you know her, she used to be a Castleberry”

                I don’t know. On the one hand, I want a little “soul” in the form of non-chain restaurants and non-big-box stores and interesting places to go, but on the other I rage when the idiot down the street drives his boom car around all hours of the night.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to fillyjonk says:

                I’ve felt rootless since I was 9 or so when my family moved for the third time to a suburb outside Chicago. I have no idea where my great grandparents are buried except vaguely: in Europe somewhere. My grandparents rest in Michigan and Iowa. I now live in Colorado. So I understand exactly what you’re talking about.

                My wife, who is more fortunate in this regard, has a few generations of ancestors buried in a handful of small towns in eastern Nebraska and can tie her roots on both parents sides to a small region in Europe. Even then she struggles with her own sense of rootlessness. It’s the culture we live in, tho. A lack of connection to place is viewed as a very good thing…Report

              • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

                My background and family history is sort of similar. But that is part of the price of being a country founded on immigrants and taking over a continent and having distance places to run to for a new start. The west was a giant second or third chance for all sorts of people who failed in the east. The US was a place for those who were chased out of the rest of the world. Movement has been a big part of our national ideology. Rootlessness in some ways made America.

                One of the nice parts of Alaska is that most of the non-indigenous people came here from someplace else. Being new or moving here is normal which makes it easier to find a place.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

                Realizing this may start a flame war, I think the only region in America where folks’ connection to place is a dominant part of their culture is the south.

                Also, I’m not sure our rootlessness is the price we pay for being American’s. It’s not like any of us who were born here had a choice in the matter. It’s just the way it is, seems to me. But it’s also promoted as a high-ideal of rugged individualism, and then we have feedback loops which make rootlessness into a normative concept ala neoliberalism and “labor flexibility” and so on. Echoing PD Shaw’s comment, something important is lost or overlooked in the way we think about this stuff.Report

              • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

                Not just the south but it is very prominent there. Go to New England and talk to people who can list family members back to the 1600’s. They are very much rooted in place.

                I think rootlessness is, for better and worse, part the American mythos and ideology. Moving for better things and places is endemic if not for each person but for many families.

                Did anyone ever read The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner. Great book. great writer. It talks about this kind of thing.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

                I think rootlessness is, for better and worse, part the American mythos and ideology. Moving for better things and places is endemic if not for each person but for many families.

                Yes, we agree on that. I’m more inclined to put it in the “worse” category, tho.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think you can make a distinction between moving so that you can set down roots and changing the ethos so that roots themselves are seen as an impediment.

                That’s the somewhere/anywhere critique that I think globalism is accelerating.Report

              • Maribou in reply to greginak says:

                @greginak Yep, you’re very right about parts of New England. Maine and Vermont, particularly, I think.

                Eastern Canada as well (although they have a leaving-and-coming-back thing to some degree, but still the expectation is that even if people go off west (which could be Toronto!!) to work, they’ll come home in a decade or so…). My youngest sibling has lived all her life in PEI, and most of our relatives there see that as normative, not strange, because that’s what they did too. It’s true that if you go back a few generations you’ll find some rootless folks – but most of those “rootless” immigrants were kicked out of their home countries or fled starvation, from places where their families had been rooted for generations, and as soon as they *could* find a place their families could be happy in for generations again, they settled down.

                Heck, when I go there to visit, people know who I am half the time just based on who I look like that they know… I’ve been told by cousins that they were recognized as belonging to a particular lineage just from how they look in Ireland and Scotland, as well, before they said anything about it. (Some of these cousins are mixed race, even – but kinship trumps racism in these cases….) “Oh, your people must be related to the Clarks of such and such town, I’m guessing.” And it’s accurate. *across a blooming ocean*.

                I don’t want to move back, but there’s no way I can pretend that my roots aren’t there. They’re just…. stretched out. Attenuated. For better and for worse.Report

              • pillsy in reply to greginak says:

                It’s not a novel observation by any means, but it has quite a bit (though not everything) to do with class. Most of my colleagues came from all over and ended up here in NJ or PA after being buffeted to and fro by first the demands of academic life and then economics. Most of them are first gen immigrants, and the ones who aren’t grew up in totally different parts of the US.

                My neighbors, though, tend to be working class (successful working class, to be sure) and most of them are from Jersey. Maybe a a couple counties over, but still Jersey.Report

              • greginak in reply to pillsy says:

                There is a class aspect although that may vary by region. In the West lots of people move all over the place for work. I’ve known lots of families that have bounced around half a dozen states in the West until landing in Alaska. They weren’t moving because work and life were going well in any one place. Hope, and sobriety and peace and work, were always over the horizon. Sometimes it was following construction booms in vegas or AZ or natural resource work in the northwest or something else.

                I grew up in Jersey so i know what you mean by working class people still living fairly close to where they grew up. I know quite a few people who still live there. I’ve been out of Jersey for 20 + years and it still feels like home.Report

              • fillyjonk in reply to Stillwater says:

                I suspect rootlessness is a relatively new phenomenon in the US as people’s work became more specialized. I had kind of accepted I would have to move away from “home” (which wasn’t even the place I grew up; my parents moved when I was about 18) if I wanted a decent job in my field.

                I just….I wish a lot of days it wasn’t so FAR, especially as my parents age and have health and other challenges.Report

              • Maribou in reply to fillyjonk says:

                @fillyjonk I think it goes back at least to the 1930s, actually, but that was a different kind of rootlessness…. I think that was, like the immigrant waves I describe above, more of a “pull up roots, desperate to put down new ones” kind of a thing. Still there were plenty of people in the Great Depression who didn’t find new soil for their roots, or who decided they were happier being rootless….Report

              • greginak in reply to fillyjonk says:

                It goes back at least to the late 1800’s. The frontiers were closer than. Moving west may have been going to Kansas or the Dakotas. People tried to prove up on farmland which often failed so it was time to go the next great place to find something.

                Eventually they found a place to put down roots and may have even helped to build towns. But internal migration has been a thing for a long time.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to fillyjonk says:

                Historically, I would say “rootlesssness” is a pejorative that may have a different meaning than is being used in this discussion.* Moving someplace to have a home is as old as the Mayflower and it was a primary motive of westward migration. But moves that don’t result in a home creation either amount to tragedies (e.g., Steinbeck’s Joads) or greed, typically depicted as speculation.

                *And most of the people here are not normal. Most people live in the state where they were born. Most people live within 18 miles of their parents. The more common migration pathways are going to be “next larger” nearby city.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I’m 24 miles from my parents and we all live in states different than where we were born 🙂Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Still not normal; I won’t even give credit for almost normal.

                The more I think about what it means to live in the same state as one was born (pdf), the less frequent migration seems given the number of multi-state metros. In particular, there is a lot of out-state migration occurring all of the time in the tri state area, which is probably not significant in the scope of things.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I’m 1,942 miles from my dad! Do I win?

                What do I win?Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon You might win for non-immigrants, but there’s too many of those around here for you to win-win :P.

                I’m at 2159 miles as the crow flies (it’s about 2600 to actually *travel* there most of the time), and I bet @J_A has me beat all hollow.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                A Flannel ShirtReport

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:


                I only have one flannel shirt (strange, I know, for a guy who lives out here), so a second is always welcome.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater says:

                I have roots in Chicago (Grandpa and Great Grandpa worked as mechanics for the Chicago mob, patching up bullet holes and disappearing evidence), some more roots in WI, but neither are roots I am particularly fond of.

                I guess I have some kind of roots here in the Puget Sound, but even then, they are shallow, and I’m OK with that. Roots can help you feel grounded, but they can also tie you to a place that is dying, and if you can’t breathe new life into it, it’s either escape, or die along with it.Report

              • When my daughter was in junior high we traced the “Cain” line of the family back as far as we could without spending money. From Solomon Cain, born in eastern KY in 1821, steady migration westward: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and me in Colorado (where I’ve lived much longer than any place I lived previously). I was born in California then lived in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, and New Jersey before settling in Colorado.

                We’ve been rootless for a long time. One of my grandmothers tried to trace the batches of ancestors that came over from the UK at different times. For practical purposes, they all came out of the dockside parish in Liverpool, where the parish church burned down and destroyed the records in 1895. She communicated back and forth with an expert in England, who wrote something like, “Ah, the dockside parish in Liverpool. Tracing back from there gets very expensive.”Report

              • Jason in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Solomon Kane was pretty restless, wandering the world, fighting evil and all.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I think this is an astute observation. Where I do have sympathy for Moss is that a lot people do rightfully feel like they being kicked out of their HOMES/Communities.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I think that the idea of cities and graft going hand in hand is an outdated concept.

            And to be fair, I think Rufus is complaining about how every city tries to be the next New York, Toronto, London, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, etc. instead of just being happy with what they are. But as you noted infrastructure is expensive and tax bases are seductive. But even during the bankrupt days, museums and cultural institutions did not leave New York that much.

            I do wonder if a lot of writers missing the old “gritty” New York, San Francisco, Seattle or wherever are really missing their 20s when they could stay out all night, drink too much, and not do too much damage to their bodies.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              The graft is still there, it’s just no longer under the table. It’s all legal now, if no less shady.Report

            • Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              Saul, that’s rrally not what I’m complaining about. I’m really complaining about every landlord in my city wanting to double or triple the rent and bring in younger, richer, whiter renters than the people who live here now. Infrastructure also relies on quite a few workers like myself who can’t afford to pay double the rent, even though we might contribute less in taxes.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        “Moss reminds me of the 1940s British Intellectuals who were mortified that British working class people liked Hollywood movies. How could there be true socialism if the working classes liked to watch Hollywood movies instead of doing traditional British folk dances?”

        Please tell me you see the irony in you of all people making this statement.

        I know you’ve largely taken to just ignoring any time I question or call you out, but eventually you’ll have to wrestle with challenges to your positions.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

      The problem still remains that cities only became refugees for various outcasts because of the suburbs. Before the mid-20th century, cities were filled with a wider class base of people and lot of whites people. Once suburbia began to loose its’ allure and wealthier people began moving back, cities could no longer remain a refuge.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I agree but it sort of happened in reverse. The cities grew up in North America around industries. So they attracted immigrants and minorities as well as sons of farmers hurt by fluctuations in global agricultural markets. As one historian put it, America was born in the country but moved to the city.

        But I live in a Canadian city that was created by Italians, Portuguese, and white steelworkers.

        Suburbia boomed partly due to some industries moving to the countryside and partly due to white flight. Thus it was culturally sterile and the kids of those people want to live in the cities. They might well want to live among the minorities who created their culture.

        The problem is landlords would *much* rather rent to nice young white kids with money than anyone else, now that they have the choice.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

          The problem is landlords would *much* rather rent to nice young white kids with money than anyone else, now that they have the choice.

          I remember the fratboys who lived upstairs from you who put a hole in the drywall and used the results as a urinal for a while.

          I wonder if they paid the rent on time otherwise.

          That said, all other things being equal, if I had a choice between renting out my room for $400/month and renting it out for $1800/month, I’d pick renting it out for $1800.Report

    • j r in reply to Rufus F. says:


      I read the article and I think the argument, to the extent that there is one, misses the mark. There are a lot of problems with it, but maybe the most pronounced is that it’s so limited in it’s scope. If you look at the last 30 years of New York’s history, you’re going to see a trend of once shabby neighborhoods being gentrified and rising rents pushing out the less well to-do. In that connect, the competing arguments thing makes some sense.

      But what happens when you instead decide to look at the last 50 years or a hundred years? Once you pull back and get some perspective, the story gets more complicated. Walk around NYC and look at the housing stock in what were some of the poorest neighborhoods. Ask yourself why there are beautiful brownstones in Harlem and Ft Greene or really grand pre-war buildings in Washington Heights or on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Hint: it’s not because we built nice homes for the poor and working class in a more enlightened era.

      Those neighborhoods were built by, and for, the wealthy in the first place. Over time, the economics of a place changes and people’s preferences and aspirations change and what were once wealthy neighborhoods have more and more working class residents as the wealthy move on (to the suburbs in this case). Those brownstones get subdivided. The marble in the lobby has seen better days. The neighborhood goes to pot and those who can, get out. Fast forward a bit and many people in the next generation no longer aspire to the suburbs and begin to slowly infiltrate back into those same urban neighborhoods, while at the same time many long-time city residents decide to get out and try something else.

      This is all cyclical. And once you realize that it’s cyclical, you should realize that you’re not looking at two competing arguments about what a city should be; rather, you’re looking at two phases in a much longer story. “All of this happened before and all of this will happen again.”Report

    • James K in reply to Rufus F. says:


      There’s more than one thing going on here, and I am concerned to different degrees about each of them.

      One the one hand, if a chain opens in a neighbourhood and it can attract customers away from more established businesses then I don’t see the problem – it can be sad to lose a community institution, but if people voluntarily choose the chain over the local diner then it can’t have been that much of an institution now can it? One of the major virtues of the market as a preference discovery process is that it gets at what people want, not at what they think it is virtuous to claim to want.

      Where I start to object is the notion of government using zoning rules and even eminent domain to try and create what they think is the “right kind” of residences or businesses. This has nothing to do with anybody preferences but the people in charge, and there is no reasons to presuppose that the results are preferable to what came before for anyone but the central planners and whatever corporations were directly benefited.

      If we’re looking for an alternative model, I suggested “permissive vs. prescriptive”. Prescriptive means trying to freeze a city in amber (the lack of new supply pushing prices and rents through the roof) or using zoning / eminent domain to remake the city in your image (and thereby destroying anything the Powers That Be find too untidy). Permissive is making sure the infrastructure of the city is functioning well and then involving oneself as little as possible in the peoples’ choices (note that I’m not saying no intervention is necessary, but that regulation should facilitate choice, not smother it).

      Land planning in most developed countries is trapped in the Progressive Era, back when “everyone knew” that central planning was more efficient that the tangled bank of the market. Even as the fallacy of this position was exposed over the 20th Century, little has changed in how land use is controlled. Our understanding of natural resources and how they interact has increased dramatically in the past 100 years, and it would be nice if governments were to start putting that knowledge to good use.

      I still call myself a libertarian, even though I hold a lot of views that are atypical of libertarians because first and foremost I am against the idea that convincing 51% of the people who bothered to show up that you’re slightly less evil than the other guy somehow grants you a divine mandate to remake the world as you see fit.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to James K says:

        I’m not opposed to people choosing the chain store over the market either, but it’s somewhat inaccurate to say that the market gets at what we really want. My first thought is of the Italian market in town that makes food that tastes delicious and much better to my taste buds than what you can get at the “discount grocery” store exactly one block away. I shop at the discount place much more often because you can buy almost a week’s worth of disgusting processed food for twenty bucks versus one or two days worth of delicious healthy Italian food for twenty bucks. It has a lot less to do with my taste preferences than to do with my budget.

        To your larger point, what I see happening in my city, and I suspect it’s happening in a lot of places, is very heavy-handed prescriptive means being used to transform the city into a particular vision that is then being sold as being the result of changing tastes. We’ve become hip now, whereas before we were just poor.Report

        • James K in reply to Rufus F. says:


          I shop at the discount place much more often because you can buy almost a week’s worth of disgusting processed food for twenty bucks versus one or two days worth of delicious healthy Italian food for twenty bucks. It has a lot less to do with my taste preferences than to do with my budget.

          When economists speak of preference we generally speak of preferences as constrained by budget – no point in wondering what someone would buy if they had infinite resources. You’re right that this plays into chains in general, for many people, especially people with low incomes, cheaper is preferable to higher quality. Its one of the reasons why I am so suspicious of regulations that try to block chains or mandate large sections with big offsets – its an attempt to impose middle-class preferences on a population that often can’t afford them.

          To your larger point, what I see happening in my city, and I suspect it’s happening in a lot of places, is very heavy-handed prescriptive means being used to transform the city into a particular vision that is then being sold as being the result of changing tastes.

          I don’t doubt that, and its why I think Prescriptive vs. Permissive is an important axis for this debate. We have our own supply-based housing problems here, though the political obstacles are mostly to do with political opposition to intensification (New Zealand has a cultural mythos surrounding standalone dwellings and large sections, even in urban areas). As it stands Auckland is one of the least affordable cities in the world, and it has reached the point where Auckland’s prices have started to cause prices in nearby cities to rise. Ironically, one of the cities suffering from these second-hand affordability issues is Hamilton.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to James K says:


        I think it is more complicated because all the talk about chains is complicated and more of a swipe. If anything, a lot of the gentrifers like the small ethnic restaurants. The issues forcing businesses out of their old neighborhoods is more:

        1. Huge increases in commercial rents because of how hot/popular the neighborhood is, not necessarily a lack of business. The greed of commercial landlords never ceases to amaze me (or landlords in general). But I’ve seen stories about expensive and successful brands deciding to close up shop because the landlord jacked up rent on them to an absurd amount. This is kind of why I support a vacancy tax on property. At the very least, commercial landlords shouldn’t be allowed to write off vacant properties.

        2. If business declines, it can be just as often about declining foot traffic. This happened in my old Brooklyn neighborhood. The old Brownstones were single family homes, broken up into apartments, and then turned into single-family homes again. The last step means fewer customers for restaurants, bars, etc. In my old neighborhood, lots of businesses closed up and cited this as the reason. Of course it could just be saving face.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I’m warm to the idea of a vacancy tax, once a place has been vacant for, say, 6 months. Of course, I’d also be open to hearing a counter to the idea (i.e. why a vacancy tax is a bad idea).Report

          • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            @oscar-gordon You might already be aware of this, but when @saul-degraw says “write off” he doesn’t just mean “not care about” but “count as an actual loss for tax purposes”. This is part of what drove rent hikes in our town, that rich owners were perfectly happy for the tax-writeoff … sometimes literally for years… if someone didn’t renew their lease because of the increase and no one else rented subsequently. It made negotiations really unbalanced.

            I think “quit subsidising vacant properties” is even easier to welcome than a vacancy tax….

            Overall I think this may also be cyclical, as I suspect the tax write-offs show up to encourage people to buy buildings aka “invest in downtown”? But maybe it’s just a normal depreciation write-off? I don’t really understand how that works…Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

              Well, a vacancy tax would necessarily require that a person not be able to write off losses from the vacancy (be it depreciation or loss from expected revenue), or at the very least the tax would have to exceed any possible write offs (if, for instance, the write off was on the federal taxes, you’d want the vacancy tax to consume enough of that to make it not worth the effort).Report

            • dragonfrog in reply to Maribou says:

              I’ve never quite understood people’s thinking about tax writeoffs – in order to write off a loss, you first have to lose money. All the writeoff does is slightly lessen the sting of the loss.

              If you’re happier to be able to write off a loss than not incur it in the first place, I figure there must be one of:
              – you’re not very good at arithmetic (there’s a lot of that about)
              – it’s not actually a business loss, but a personal expense you’ve fraudulently or borderline-fraudulently managed to shoehorn into a business expense categoryReport

              • Maribou in reply to dragonfrog says:

                @dragonfrog It seems that for rental properties it is possible to “lose money” that is more money than you could actually make with a tenant in that building, considering what you could actually get a tenant to pay (vs what you can claim you have the right to ask).

                I am sure shenanigans are somehow involved. Moral if not legal.Report

              • j r in reply to Maribou says:


                I’m not sure that has anything to do with tax write-off’s. As @dragonfrog points out, you don’t make money on a tax write-off, you just take a smaller overall loss.

                More likely, commercial space sits empty because commercial leases tend to be much longer than residential leases. So, landlords won’t settle for lower rent today if they think that they can get higher rent a year from now.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to j r says:

                There is also the possibility that the building will be more valuable if empty. In a market with strong provisions for tenants, business of otherwise, developers might want empty buildings and be willing to pay more for them.Report

              • Maribou in reply to j r says:

                @j-r *shrug* i’m just telling you what a few rich commercial building landlords (like, literally 3 different ones) have told me over the years, plus what my boss said about what our landlord was doing 15 years ago. It’s entirely possible they were all fudging the truth or oversimplifying or something.

                But there was no conflict of interest with the ones who weren’t negotiating with my boss – I wasn’t trying to rent anything – so I’m not sure why all three of them would’ve fudged/oversimplified/whatever in the same way….

                Either way it leads to buildings sitting empty for years, which is poison on neighborhoods.

                If taking a smaller overall loss is the justification they use for hiking the rent on existing tenants when the lease comes up, and then letting the building sit empty for multiple years, then the city (or whomever is giving them the write-off) could stop.

                And they’d have more incentive to get lower rent today.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to dragonfrog says:


                I think it depends. A lot of commercial landlords own a lot of property, especially in big cities. These aren’t small mom and pop owners usually but large corporations. They can use all sorts of tricks and techniques as well as having a steady cash flow from their other properties.Report

        • PD Shaw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I think these are probably the key issues. Zoning isn’t being used to do much more than lock-in what is already there. Maybe. Where zoning is weakest, in parts of the Sunbelt, cities grow with less density. And since zoning ordinances regulate against density, it is not clear that they do anything other than reflect consumer & market preference.Report

  4. Marchmaine says:

    [Ci9 – second link] Where are the Civil Libertarians when you need them?

    Counter intuitive thought for the day:
    Our theories of Crime/Punishment/Justice are inadequate to support a regime of higher crime detection. The technological advances we’re combining are far outstripping our moral framework to deal with them. Not only will this end badly, but it will go sideways so quickly we’ll wonder where it came from.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Sorry, we’ve been told to go sit in the corner and shut up because of terrorism and mass shootings.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Shuussh you, it was a rhetorical question. Back to your corner.

        And, Hah!… “corners” you sound like a 1940s British intellectual. Quelle nostalgie. There are no corners anymore.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

      I saw something on the twitters today that I’ve been wondering about.

      We look at the problems that arise from society and think that each outlier is, itself, something that needs to be handled with individual-scale solutions.

      The author blamed this sort of thing on “Liberals” but I’m wondering if it’s not more of an enlightenment/post-enlightenment kinda thing.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

        Interesting thought; I’m inclined to see something there, but then, I would.

        That might be partly what I mean by Crime/Punishment/Justice… when you read about high trust societies and how they handle CPJ it sound much more like Sin/Repentance/Forgiveness… even if its all secularized and such.

        I could see drones and facial recognition and cameras in all areas of life in Denmark… where every little infraction comes with a personal email and a suggested donation for remediation working quite well… I think the repentance might even be sincere and secondary to the punishment/fine. And, well, we all know what it means to be a good Dane… so welcome back.

        But that cuts across a simple Enlightenment divide, because it would be hard to argue that the Danes have eschewed the Enlightenment. But, it might be worth studying how the Danes managed Enlightenment Individualism while keeping (or reinventing) some sort of functioning civic communitarianism. And I promise I wasn’t intentionally thinking of SheWhoMustNotBeNamed‘s most recent article.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

          I think this is perceptive in that without some cultural understanding of restorative justice, we are only left with ever-increasing force and terror.

          I see the Smart City/ surveillance state stuff as being a form of “hardening the target” response in contrast to the soft power response of cultural trust-building.

          Part of the reason I am so cool towards the target hardening approach is that I think it ultimately isn’t nearly as effective as we wish it were; For every lock there is a lockpick, for every code there is a hacker.
          And as we are finding out, even the most abstract algorithm incorporates our deepest biases and cultural assumptions.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    Ci1: The issue here is that Rustbelt cities seem to be on the decline still but coastal cities are getting large population gains.

    Ci5: San Francisco’s population increased from 805K in 2010 to 870K in 2016. Oakland was 390K in 2010 and 420K in 2016. Berkeley also increased in population during the same time. So did San Jose but AEI will Republican because that is what they do. Success only counts if you do it in the AEI/Republican way.

    Ci6: I think the issue is a lot more complicated than anyone wants it to be. Gentrification and push-out are real things but cities have always had a mix of rich and poor areas. Pacific Heights in SF and the UES in NYC were never exactly bastions of the poor and eccentric. Slate noted that Moss reacted in something close to horror when he saw poor Hispanic New Yorkers flock to Costco to buy big screen TVs. There is a wide range of options between local dive bar that looks like a post-apocalypse set piece and corporate and bland but clean. There is also a wide range of options between mom and pop that hasn’t updated their menu since 1963 and super-expensive Michelin star restaurants.

    Psychologically, I think nostalgia is part of the human condition for good and for ill. There is also a tendency as Colson Whitehead noted for people to trap NYC (and maybe other cities) in amber from the moment when they are arrive. I’ve lived in my current neighborhood for nearly a decade. It has undergone a lot of changes. There is now a fancy boutique grocery where there used a dingy and poorly stocked convenience store. I only went to the dingy convenience store once but I still remember what it looked like. There are also businesses that have been in the neighborhood before I moved here and they still look the same. I would be sad if these places went out of business because of unaffordable rent. My old Brooklyn neighborhood was already very gentrified when I lived there and has only gotten more so but it was a long process. The reclaiming of “Brownstone Brooklyn” started in the 1970s and 80s when bohemian inclined professionals were unable to afford Greenwich Village housing.

    I suppose I think a middle ground is possible and preferable to the Moss-nostalgist set and the Bloomberg-corporate set but everyone seems stuck in their trenches of false dichotomy,Report

    • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Psychologically, I think nostalgia is part of the human condition for good and for ill. There is also a tendency as Colson Whitehead noted for people to trap NYC (and maybe other cities) in amber from the moment when they are arrive.

      @saul-degraw’s point about nostalgia and it’s ability to warp time is a good one and an important one. It’s not just that we tie associations to our own experiences, but we also tie them to larger cultural

      Think about SoHo, which is the poster child of once affordable Bohemian neighborhoods that were gentrified and then taken over by corporate retail and the very wealthy. The reason that poor artists were able to move there in the first place, however, was because of an oversupply of unused commercial space that sat empty after manufacturers left the city in the 40s and 50s that were replaced by sweatshops, which were replaced by nothing. And once the Bohemians started moving in in the late ’60s/early 70s, they were quickly followed by the yuppies in the 80s. And those old cast iron buildings in SoHo were themselves part of a story of displacing the earlier upscale retail and residential inhabitants, who themselves has displaced the original middle class residents of the neighborhood who moved in once the city filled in the big

      So SoHo, a place etched in the popular imagination for it’s erstwhile Bohemian character was only actually Bohemian for about ten to fifteen years of the two hundred year history of the neighborhood.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    Ci6: I took a second and deeper read of the article. I get what it and Moss is trying to say. Different cities have different feels under the romantic, archaic notion but global capitalism tends to flatten things out with efficiency. Whatever of New York or NOLA or London remains is in a distorted, theme park version.

    I get this. The argument that many different global cities are losing their identities and becoming homogenized makes sense. Moss’s argument is not without merit. It has the same problems that any anarchic approach does. People like control. They are going to reject Miss like they reject Hayek’s argument on letting the economy run itself without intervention.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I don’t see how you can have a city that wants to attract people from across the world and still maintain a coherent identity/soul/what-have-you? The wider the net of people you attract, the more the identity will become an unidentifiable amalgamation.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I don’t see how you can have a city that wants to attract people from across the world and still maintain a coherent identity/soul/what-have-you?

        Do cities have desires?Report

      • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        “still maintain a coherent identity/soul/what-have-you? ”

        It requires a large part of that coherent identy/soul/what-have-you to be caught up in multiplicity and the desire for positive proximity to all sorts of people. That has to be prioritized above homogeneity or a particular lifestyle.

        Montreal (the city, not the suburbs) is pretty good at this. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t have lots of failures at doing so – it sure does – but that they get rolled over on the regular. The spirit of the post-67 city, and the folks who act to take care of each other within that, is fiercer than any one actor for conformity.

        It’s also the case that they all want the metros and buses to run on time, but also accept that they won’t always – so I’m not really sure why those two things have to be in conflict.

        The “hard” part of that is that it pretty forcibly pushes out / rejects incomers who aren’t in favor of that kind of multiplicity… they end up moving to somewhere more friendly to their specific set of values, less demanding that they put up with other people’s. (And the counter-push in Montreal is that it’s also pretty good at pushing out people who aren’t interested in learning French, or who aren’t confident in more than one language (a different thing than being completely fluent, of course). Which is … complicated.)

        But I haven’t read the article at all, so this is just me riffing off what you said, not considering it in the article’s frame.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I would say being a ployglut is an identity. I don’t think Moss minds the old world of various ethnic neighborhoods because those had character/home.

        I do think it is possible for city governments and agencies to ignore their voters in searching for lucre and constituents that they consider more “ideal.”Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:



        That brings us back to, “What exactly is this ‘soul’ we are talking about? And who is the curator of that definition?”

        Ask a dozen people, I bet you get a dozen different answers.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          @oscar-gordon Well, yeah. Kinda in the same way that James says about God being a multi-faceted diamond though (using that as metaphor, here, not as a claim about God)?

          My experience, at least, of Montreal, is that you would get 10 Montrealers with 10 different answers who nonetheless agreed that their 10 answers were all related and in some sense made room for each other. Or perhaps 9/10 because the one guy would be contrarian just to be contrarian and the other 9 would appreciate his contrarianism and start changing and debating their answers also.

          But even if it’s blind people describing an elephant without being allowed access to the whole elephant… at least for some cities there’s still an elephant (soul) being described.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

            Or perhaps 9/10 because the one guy would be contrarian just to be contrarian and the other 9 would appreciate his contrarianism and start changing and debating their answers also.

            Sounds like I need to visit Montreal, eh?Report

            • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              @oscar-gordon *whistles innocently*Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

                My wife has been there (her cousin was running in an Iron Man and she went to support her, and spend time together), and she has fond memories of it.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon Most people do.

                I’m going to spend about a week there in the fall and I AM VERY EXCITED ALREADY.Report

              • Road Scholar in reply to Maribou says:

                Hey, Maribou. I accidentally reported your post. The mechanics of this site have been screwy for me on my Android phone since the host move.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Road Scholar says:

                @road-scholar Thanks for letting me know. I know the proximity of the report button and the next comment button is challenging.

                We kind of had to move by the seat of our pants, I’m afraid, so we haven’t had the time / luxury to do much testing / improvement for different browsers as of yet. I’m going to tag @trumwill on this thread just in case it’s something he can easily fix, but it’s unlikely we’ll have a chance to fully troubleshoot such things for a while…Report

              • gabriel conroy in reply to Maribou says:

                My wife and I are going to Montreal at the end of March. I’ve been there twice, in the early 2000s, and I loved it. I’m sure it’s changed a lot since then, but we think it’ll be fun.Report

              • Maribou in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                @gabriel-conroy I go every 5-10 years (I stopped living there at the end of the 90s) and what seems to happen is that the details change, but the overall character stays the same. People I know who live there agree with this…Report

              • gabriel conroy in reply to Maribou says:


                En tout cas, ma femme et moi, nous esperons pratiquer notre francais sans trop barbariser la langue.Report

              • Maribou in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                @gabriel-conroy Ah, c’est bien!

                Un p’tit truc:
                Si vous dites, “Bonjour hello!” quand vous entrez un magasin ou un resto, (presque) tout le monde va vous addresser en anglais; mais si vous dites, “Hi bonjour!” ils vont probablement vous aidez a pratiquer :). En tout cas, si vous leurs dites bonjour dans quelque langue, ils vont être heureux. (Et alors, c’est bien possible de jaser chacun dans la langue qu’il veut pratiquer, donc si les gens francophones commencent à parler en anglais, vous pouvez continuer quand-même en français!)Report

              • Slade the Leveller in reply to Maribou says:

                Huh. I never noticed the juxtaposition when I visited with my family. We just thought it was a clever way to find out the language of the person you were talking to.

                My daughter is fluent in French but refused to use it up there for fear of being discovered as a non-native speaker. I have some high school French which I triumphantly used to order a pizza in Gatineau. Of course, I blew it when a lady who wished to walk between me and my son, whose picture I was taking, asked, “C’est fait?”, which I totally knew as soon as I gave her the ugly American blank stare. It’s tough to think in 2 languages!

                I also like that Canadian French is spoken much more slowly than French French, which allowed me to pick up more of the words of the country music songs on the radio.Report

              • @slade-the-leveller

                Among natives, it’s used as a way to communicate which language you speak most comfortably (the latter one) while simultaneously indicating that you are willing to try both. So if the person hearing it only speaks one, they’ll use that one – but almost all Montrealers are somewhat bilingual and will try to speak the language they think you most want to use (which they will assume is your native one unless you cue pretty hard otherwise). Either way, it’s really socially important that as the customer, YOU do the greeting… that’s the custom in France and Quebec and parts of the Maritimes, that other people mostly get wrong, expecting the shopkeeper to do the greeting… which starts everyone off on the wrong foot…

                When I lived there everyone thought I was a native francophone to the point where if I was with anglo friends at regular haunts, they would talk to me in french and my friends in English. I enjoyed that :).

                It is hard to think in 2 languages though! And Montrealers among friends (rather than in service situations) will often have fluid conversations where they switch back and forth between both English and French seamlessly – I developed that skill, and was comfortable with it, when I lived there, but it takes me at least a day or two to get it back.

                There’s a really fun movie called Bon Cop Bad Cop that is filmed in both English and French, slightly more separate most of the time, and its sequel is mixed up in just that way – both languages in one sentence like proper modern Montrealers – but as far as I know it’s the only movie that does so.

                I think it’s not so much that Quebecers speak more slowly (when they aren’t talking to tourists or primarily-anglophones, anyway) as that they sing verrrrrry slowly. The ballad is … preeminent. I mean, that’s where Celine Dion gets it :D.

                Two guys in a bar on a Friday night, on the other hand, the joual will be thick, and the odds of anyone who isn’t local understanding them are about as good as if they were speaking Haitian Creole… To my standard-French trained ear, and Acadian-burnished tongue, Parisians are far more easy to fit in with than Quebecers.Report

              • gabriel conroy in reply to Maribou says:

                Ah merci pour les conseils. Helas, bien que j’aie beaucoup etudie le francais (c’etait une de mes specialisations a l’universite), j’ai beaucoup oublier et je suis tres, tres timide.Report

              • Maribou, Moderator in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                N’ayez pas peur! Les gens a Montreal sont plutot sympa… ils vont peut-etre rire, mais ils ne vont pas etre mechants.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

            OT but Harold Bloom’s argument that God is total terror and total love at the same time was always very good.Report

            • Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

              @leeesq Yeah, for all his flaws and foibles the man knows how to read a text, and I love his reading of the Bible.

              (I still manage to astound people with the J theory every so often. HE THOUGHT WHAT? HOW INTERESTING!!!! Meanwhile I am surprised they’ve never heard of it.)Report

    • greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I’m all for efficiency and dislike dysfunction. To find those things part of cities “soul” seems to require a fair amount privilege to be above the consequences. Brash cab drivers might be fun if you feel safe or aren’t the target of their brashness. They might be less fun if you don’t feel safe. Efficiency is great for those working class people who want to get to work on time.

      I’ve heard the complaints about Times Square for years. It is pretty bland and gentrified now. It’s nothing special. It is the way it is because big companies want the make money. But it’s not like Sex World and the porn was there as a charity. Times Square was a money making place for porn yet somehow it is now remembered as a place with “character.” Fwiw i went to the city college grad school , which is just a few blocks from TS, for a couple years. I used to walk up to TS when i had time. It didn’t bother me, but i’m not going to get all misty eyed that the sleazy aspect was something wonderful.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to greginak says:

        A thought: what constitutes “cool soul” is a different level for different people. An aging single woman, like me, is going to be less-tolerant of things like brash cab drivers and pamphleteers coming to my door. Yes, 99% of the time the person isn’t a threat, but a lot of us single women have had the “what if it’s the 1% is” pounded into our head – so we’d rather live in buildings with doormen/concierges, or not open the door of our houses to someone going door to door, or are unsure about things like Uber. (Though I am not at all sure Uber counts as “soul” given what it is).

        I had more tolerance for grime and sleaze and maybe-slightly-less-safe conditions when I was younger and could still run fast (and roundhouse kick) when I had to.Report

        • greginak in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Yeah exactly. Lots of young people can enjoy the edgier parts of a city like NYC when they are young and in a group having fun. They are almost certainly safe but can get a thrill from being in the general neighborhood of danger. That’s fun in the right situation but when you are alone it can get scary fast.

          When i want to school in NY i used to love to walk around when i had the time. It’s a great walking city. Of course i was young and could carry myself safely and was aware enough to stay away from the sketchiest areas. That NY is much safer now is better even if some of “character” has been lost.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to greginak says:

        Times Square is the way it is because places like “Sex World” were legislated out of existence. It was a political initiative against that particular marketplace. I’m not misty-eyed for those places either, but we should be clear that these changes are usually the result of political decisions about who should be where. It really has very little to do with cultural preferences on the ground.Report

  7. Chip Daniels says:

    Taking Ci1 and Ci6 together-
    The two takeaways here are the shrinking households, and yawning wealth gap.
    The first article tells us how we need to build new housing to repopulate our cities, but doesn’t really address what sort of housing this might be, since the form of the household unit has changed. Those old Victorians were designed to house up to a dozen members of an extended family for example; what housing form is appropriate and affordable for a single mother, or childless couple, or empty nester?

    And who are these homebuyers in the new Precariat Economy? What sort of 30 year mortgages are appealing to people whose entire livelihood may not exist in 10 years?

    How do we structure the physical form of neighborhoods given these realities? Does restricting building to single functional zones even work?

    How do we structure the school day, and school year? The current design arose in a time when children were needed to harvest in the summer.

    I guess I am just seeing how interconnected these things are, and the need for something radically new to address them.Report

  8. Chip Daniels says:

    Related to Ci9:
    Eyes in the Sky about the surprising lack of anonymity in the West and the ambivalence we feel about it:

    While at first I found the social surveillance of my small Western town to be unsettling, I’ve grown to appreciate it. We return each other’s lost dogs; we notice when someone is struggling. The difference, of course, is that we are all in it together?—?we’re watching each other watching each other, a circular system that provides for a level of mutual accountability.