Seven Principles For Building Better Cities

In light of the end of our discussions, I found this TedTalk to be relevant in how we should shape our cities, through a similar and universal method that includes seven principles. Peter Calthorpe, a San Fransisco architect and urban planner and designer, highlights these principles that will allow cities to improve over time. Through the use of Californian and Chinese cities for his case studies, he states that all cities should promote the principles:

1. Preserve natural environments and critical agriculture

2. Mix

3. Walk

4. Bike

5. Connect

6. Ride

7. Focus

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‘Avocado Toast with A Side of Gentrification’

Winifred Curran develops a holistic argument on the increasing effects of gentrification within manufacturing districts such as Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In her pieces, “From the Frying Pan to the Oven’: Gentrification and the Experience of Industrial Displacement in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and In Defense of Old Industrial Spaces: Manufacturing, Creativity and Innovation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Curran identifies the problem with gentrification and specifically residential speculation in terms of the ability for small manufacturers to remain in these areas. The deindustrialization that took place after the 1970s caused for “restructuring, and industrial displacement” that allowed the real estate market to impose itself on these neighborhoods (Curran 1483). She argues that these small manufacturers depend on the urban environment for their success because they are creative-based sectors that attempt to establish authenticity and flexibility within their work. 

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Displacement Alert Project Map

In the articles, “New-Build Gentrification and the Everyday Displacement of Polish Immigrant Tenants in Greenpoint, Brooklyn,” by Filip Stabrowski, “The Right to Stay Put, Revisited: Gentrification and Resistance to Displacement in New York City,” by Kathe Newman and Elvin K. Wyly and “Does Gentrification Harm the Poor?,” by Jacob L. Vigdor, the authors share a central theme of attempting to understand the notion of displacement of low-income people due to gentrification in their neighborhoods.  Stabrowski, Newman, and Wyly argue that displacement occurs in neighborhoods that have undergone development and rezoning, forcing out long-term residents and leaving others desolate. Stabrowski narrates the story of gentrification that occurred Greenpoint where Polish immigrants, who immigrated during the twentieth century, were unable to stay in the neighborhood after the rezoning and construction of the Waterfront in 2005. These immigrants had to leave their enclave and well-established community due to poor housing conditions, rent overcharge, refusal to renew their leases, the “roommate law,” and verbal harassment. Stabrowski states the events that occurred are a form of “everyday displacement,” which is “the lived experience of ongoing loss- of the security, agency, and freedom to ‘make place'” (Stabrowksi, 796). He describes this to be the immigrants’ exclusion from a neighborhood they feel entitled to. Similarly, Newman and Wyly wanted a way to quantify this problem, but they acknowledge that it was fairly difficult to find people that were displaced specifically for reasons that stem from gentrification. However, their analysis followed residents that had relocated for three specific reasons,  expensive residence/difficulty paying rent, landlord harassment, or private action. They were able to confirm that this displacement occurs at a high enough value to be measured as significant. They followed the displacers from Manhattan to the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, rarely ever in the other direction. They also argue that this gentrification entices the poorer residents just as much as it does to outsiders and the benefits would be tremendous if these residents could remain the neighborhood without the additional stress.

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The Fight for Public Spaces


In Amanda Burden’s TedTalk in 2014, she presents the importance of public spaces within a city and how they function to produce benefits and make the city more desirable to live in.  Working as the Director of New York City Planning Commission under Mayor Bloomberg, Burden was faced with the problem of a potential increase of around 1 million people in an already dense city. She had to establish new zoning programs to house the influx of people and promoted the transit system near new development areas. In order to understand the neighborhoods she was rezoning, Burden spent years walking through the neighborhoods and holding panels to establish trust within these communities to learn how zoning could benefit community concern. Her success presented itself when she rezoned 124 neighborhoods, 40% of the city, and around 12,500 blocks. She also made sure that 90% of all new development was located within a ten-minute walk from the transit system, decreasing the need for cars.

While rezoning was attempting to solve the problem of increase growth, Burden’s interests also lied with creating waterfronts and public spaces that would change the image of New York City.  She worked on projects including Battery Park, waterfront parks in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and the Highline Park and promoted the establishment of pop-up cafes, tables and chairs where Broadway used to run, and sidewalk cafes.  She viewed these public spaces as areas that provide the city with an acquired aesthetic and improved the way New Yorkers felt about their city. Her passion was to make these areas an attraction to  New Yorkers and tourists and leave them with a meaningful new perspective when looking at this city.

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Eyes On the Street

Within The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs, we find ourselves immersed in the knowledge and history of streets most of us can call home. Heroine and Joan of Arc of Greenwich Village, Jane Jacobs vividly describes the important factors that distinctly outline the neighborhoods throughout New York, down to the nitty, gritty sidewalk below our feet.

While Jacobs viewed New York City neighborhoods from a holistic view, taking on the policies and past events that governed the streets, Mitchell Duneier approached one neighborhood, in particular, Greenwich Village, in order to uncover a specific aspect of neighborhood life through a series of interviews. In his ethnography and documentary, Sidewalk, Duneier observed the African American men who filled the streets of Greenwich Village in the 1990s selling books and magazines. Duneier drew upon the idea of the sidewalk being “the site where a sense of mutual support must be felt among strangers” in order to live together and that it should be an area of limitations and intimacy between the inhabitants (Duneier, 55).

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