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Posts in Urban Planning
A Call for a Progressive Spatial Politics

A Call for a Progressive Spatial Politics

By Scott M. Larson

Wins by left-leaning candidates in 2018 midterm elections have led many to suggest a progressive revolution is under way in Democratic — if not American — ​politics. With each successive victory progressive candidates have staked out bold positions on hot-button issues from Medicare-for-all to a $15 federal minimum wage and free college education.

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(Podcast) Discovering Ancient Greece and Rome in the Modern City

(Podcast) Discovering Ancient Greece and Rome in the Modern City

Today on Gotham, Beth Harpaz, editor of CUNY SUM, interviews Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis about Classical New York: Discovering Greece and Rome in Gotham. The new volume, co-edited with Matthew McGowan, explores how and why New York City became a showcase for the art and architectural styles of ancient Greece and Rome — from the public spaces at Rockefeller Center to the Gould Memorial Library at Bronx Community College.

Listen to their interview here.

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[The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections] Myth #9: A System of Block and Lot Divisions

[The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections] Myth #9: A System of Block and Lot Divisions

By Gergely Baics and Leah Meisterlin

The New York City grid is often understood as a foundational system of land subdivision and cadastral allotment. Accordingly, the grid divides Manhattan into a highly regularized system of rectangular shaped blocks, subdivided into lots, making standard (and stackable) units of real estate available for urban development. The grid accomplishes the city’s apportionment through its collection of more frequently spaced and narrower east-west cross-streets and less frequently spaced and wider north-south avenues — each serving as partition and demarcation between the blocks with their nested lots. Indeed, conceptualizing the grid as a system of subdivided blocks highlights its underlying cadastral logic. Previous posts (#4 and #6) have addressed two myths following from this line of reasoning, specifically the extent to which block sizes determined lot sizes, and how the relentless regularity of blocks and lots contributed to rampant real estate speculation.

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Notes on the LaGuardia Community College Amazon Teach-In

Notes on the LaGuardia Community College Amazon Teach-In

By Molly Rosner

On November 13, 2018, Amazon announced that Long Island City would become the site for its new headquarters “HQ2” along with a site in Crystal City, Virginia. Since then, New Yorkers have greeted this announcement with both applause and outrage. Throughout the year, Amazon has received bids from cities and towns across the country trying to entice the trillion-dollar company to their area. But after the gimmicks and tax incentives have all been weighed, it feels clear that New York was always high on the list of places the company was considering.

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New York City Has the Country’s Most Elaborate Zoning Code. Why Isn’t It Protecting Us From Luxury Overgrowth?

New York City Has the Country’s Most Elaborate Zoning Code. Why Isn’t It Protecting Us From Luxury Overgrowth?

By Samuel Stein

Construction is booming in New York City, and, as the real-time construction map recently released by the New York City Department of Buildings shows, a lot of the new development is wildly out of context with the surrounding neighborhoods. While scale is not sacred, many of these buildings pose quite specific problems for their neighbors, as in the case of a proposed string of towers on Franklin Avenue that would cast looming shadows over the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. A luxury development whose size and shape would make a public garden obsolete is exactly the kind of development that city planners should be working overtime to prevent.

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Cutting Up the City in Crisis: Gordon Matta-Clark and the Urban Commons

Cutting Up the City in Crisis: Gordon Matta-Clark and the Urban Commons

By Jeffrey Patrick Colgan and Jeffrey Escoffier

The traditional narrative of twentieth century urban living has often concerned itself only with the antipodal philosophies and practices of urban planner Robert Moses and critic Jane Jacobs. This binary conception of American urban life contrasted Moses’ radical projects that aimed to remake New York to suit the automobile with Jacobs’ admonishments that quality of life required small, organic neighborhoods of diverse inhabitants and independent businesses. These philosophies, however, were both time and space-specific. Moses’ vision of the ideal city was prompted by the ascent of the automobile and the crumbling infrastructure of immigrant, tenement neighborhoods; he acknowledged a fundamental change in the modes of production and consumption and sought to drastically reorient urban life accordingly. Jacobs’ ideal, alternatively, reacted against the raze and rebuild, top-down approach of Moses. Yet she depended upon historical continuity and assumed an element of permanence in the neighborhoods she studied and strove to protect.

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The History of the Future: Contextualizing the Exhibition of the Fourth Regional Plan for the New York Metropolitan Region

The History of the Future: Contextualizing the Exhibition of the Fourth Regional Plan for the New York Metropolitan Region

By Kristian Taketomo

A basement in Greenwich Village may hold a sneak peek of what’s to come in the New York Metropolitan region. Until November 3rd, the ground floor at the Center for Architecture houses a free exhibition of the Regional Plan Association’s latest long-range strategic vision for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region, the Fourth Regional Plan.

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“Town Meetings by Television:" Regional Plan Association’s “CHOICES for ’76”

“Town Meetings by Television:" Regional Plan Association’s “CHOICES for ’76”

By Kristian Taketomo

Between Saturday, March 17 and Monday, March 19, 1973, every major television station in the New York urban region — ​from Hartford, Connecticut to Trenton, New Jersey — broadcast a one-hour, documentary-style program on housing in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. “Housing — A Place to Live,” which aired at different times on eighteen channels, was the first of six “television town meetings” produced by Regional Plan Association, metropolitan New York’s private, citizen-led planning agency. Four other programs on transportation, the environment, poverty and urban growth followed the first, airing every other week. The sixth episode, on government, was slated for autumn.

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Erica Wagner's Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

Erica Wagner's Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

Reviewed by Richard Howe

The name Roebling is so closely bound up with the Brooklyn Bridge that it’s probably worth saying at the outset of this review that Erica Wagner’s Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge(Bloomsbury, 2017) really is a biography of the man and not — as might be said of David McCullough’s classic The Great Bridge (Simon & Schuster, 1972) — a biography of the bridge. The eldest son of the bridge’s designer and promoter, John A. Roebling, Washington Roebling was born on May 26, 1837, in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, and died shortly past his eighty-ninth birthday, on July 21, 1926, in Trenton, New Jersey. He served as chief engineer for the construction of what was then known as the East River Bridge for nearly fourteen years, from shortly after his father’s death on July 22, 1869, until he resigned the position not long after the bridge was opened to the public on May 24, 1883 (his assistant C. C. Martin was appointed in his place on July 9, 1883). Washington Roebling was thirty-two when he was appointed chief engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge; he lived another forty-three years after leaving that post. Though it was his position with the bridge project that secured him a place in the history of New York, seventy-five of his eighty-nine years were not spent on the great bridge, and it is perhaps the greatest merit of Erica Wagner’s book that it would be a fascinating and moving read even if its subject had never been chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge. I would almost go so far as to say that it might have been an even more fascinating and moving read had he not been.

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