Other topics, readings and events to note this week in our very politics-heavy roundup include: culture wars, redistricting blues, Quinn’s plan for the city, subway changes, London’s victory lap, plus a launch event about Apple and a megacities symposium.
NEW FRONT IN THE CULTURE WAR: URBAN POLICY
The Tea Party’s influence over the conservative agenda emerged from claims of economic responsibility and a distrust of central government, especially with respect to health care, national debt or taxation. But now the movement has set its sights on urban policy. First, there was the claim (reported in the Times earlier this month) that a non-binding United Nations Action Plan from 1992 called “Agenda 21″ (a suspicious sounding name, to be sure, whatever your politics) signalled “a vast urban planning conspiracy… implemented by a Town Hall near you to herd humanity into habitation zones and save the rest for the animals at the behest of enviro-fascists and their bicycle advocate shock troops.” In a well-argued piece on The Atlantic Cities, Andrew Whittemore contends that urban planners dismiss this strain of criticism at their peril and offers a series of ideas for how urbanists of all stripes can engage in productive dialogue with those skeptical of the orthodoxy of sustainability. But while smart growth advocacy could perhaps do with some healthy internal debate, a more urgent political goal for anyone who lives in a city is to respond to a new Transportation Bill that effectively declares war on cities via its proxy, mass transit funding. According to Will Doig in a piece on Salon, economic responsibility has nothing to do with it; it’s a new front in the culture wars, plain and simple. As Aaron Naparstek, co-founder of Streetsblog, puts it, “Now it’s abortion, gay marriage and subways.”
NEW MAPS FOR NEW YORK STATE VOTING DISTRICTS
Gerrymandering is an age-old problem in politics. The party in power has always redrawn districts to benefit their party. But the most recent set of maps proposed by New York’s Legislative Redistricting Task Force (LATFOR) seem to be worse than usual: they were released in January to nearly universal criticism. The tactics used add weight to rural voters, taking power away from minority and urban voters. The districts in New York City are more than 3% larger than the average district size, while districts in Westchester are more than 4.5% smaller than the average sized district. “With such a wide spread in population size per district, the average Senate vote cast upstate weighs 7.3% more than the average vote in New York City and surrounding regions.” Read a summary of the coverage at Voices of New York.
QUINN’S STATE OF THE CITY
Last Thursday, Speaker Christine C. Quinn of the City Council gave her State of the City speech. In it she outlined some specific plans for the city, including starting a New York City Design Week akin to Fashion Week to bring more opportunities to designers in a city with more designers of all varieties than any other city in the United States. The bulk of the speech was devoted to housing issues: the poor current maintenance and better future maintenance of New York City Housing Authority properties; lengthening the time for which a new development must remain affordable; housing the homeless. Read the full speech here, or coverage in The New York Times.
CHANGES TO THE SUBWAY SYSTEM, LARGE AND SMALL
Gothamist has posted more cool photos of progress on the 7 line extension, which reminds us of Jeff Maki and Alexandra Woolsey-Puffer’s work with 10th and 11th graders at the New Design High School to figure out the process by which the new subway infrastructure was being planned, who was making the decisions and what effect a new subway station might have on the development of a neighborhood. Other, subtler changes are afoot at the MTA that will affect where weary straphangers rest even if they never venture to the new Midtown West. The New York Daily News reports that the familiar wooden benches on subway platforms throughout the city will gradually be replaced by stainless steel versions that are easier to maintain.
LONDON BEATS OUT NYC AS “BEST CITY IN THE WORLD”
A couple of years ago we looked at the relative powers of the city governments of New York City and London. Last week the cities themselves took the comparison into the realm of competition: they staged a debate between representatives of each city. New York City sent Deputy Mayors Howard Wolfson and Robert K. Steel to debate London’s own mayor, Boris Johnson. Hosted by LandAid, the “Battle of the Giants” was held in London’s City Hall. London was voted “Best City in the World” by a show of hands by the London audience. Check out the coverage at The Atlantic Cities.
CLOG : APPLE LAUNCH AT VAN ALEN
The new issue of CLOG focuses on the impact of Apple on architecture and design. Apple has held a huge amount of influence over product design, technology and, increasingly, how people live in cities. While the company has been building retail stores for over a decade, their primary impact on architecture has been not through architecture itself, but through a more expansive rethinking of design. A wide range of of architectural thinkers explore this legacy in the new issue, which launches at Van Alen Books (tonight!) Friday, February 17th.
MEGACITIES AND META-CITIES: SUSTAINABLE MODELS FOR GROWING AND SHRINKING TERRITORIES
Last year, our conversation with Victoria Marshall about the first undergraduate program in urban design raised pedagogical questions about how urban design is defined and taught to students. Next week, Studio-X New York is hosting a symposium that invites some of the local schools and institutions a chance to weigh in on ”the role of urban design and urban ecology in the mega scale development of cities globally” and to share how projects initiated within schools and departments of urban design address this theme. Thursday, February 23rd, at Studio-X New York.
The Roundup keeps you up to date with topics we’ve featured and other things we think are worth knowing about.