I write a lot about Density HERE, and I write about politics a fair amount HERE, and about Urban Design HERE but not very much lately and finally, I write about my neighborhood HERE and the issues communities face. I like to think this is where it might get organized, synergized or unified in some way or another. The short version goes like this:
- Density is the Answer.
- Density will end unplanned planetary disruptions and the problems they present to human life and all of life itself.
- The Answers are in the Design.
- Design in all of its meanings and purposes will produce positive urban recurrences. We control what we make recur.
- The Obstacles of Politics
- The rise of planet governing bodies will redefine the role of human life on it, and sustain life itself.
- The proof is the Problem
- Data has no meaning unless found in people standing face to face in a place
The history of cities is about how problems are defined and solved. The political skill of the dense city is different than other places. The city is regularly expected to create change that people will believe in even though each change is determined by combinations of corruption and inspiration. The effectiveness of either or both is fixed in the experience of communities and demonstrated in neighborhoods. Inexplicably, is this what makes the celebration of cities so unique and important in the advancement of human thought? Here is one example.
From the 1960s to the early 90s New York City experienced rapid cultural and physical changes unlike any other. Initially, it confronted wholesale infrastructure deterioration coupled with a profound housing crisis, population loss, its racism, double-digit inflation, a significant recession and a nation embroiled in a foreign war. The city responded with improvements in race relations, education, and training there was just enough of a federal response to prevent catastrophic collapse. Why? People with disadvantages and other people with extraordinary power found themselves face-to-face with the problem of being face-to-face.
One of the popular stories told during the string of crises urban neighborhoods experienced through three decades is about the role of capital in the community development process. If you managed to borrow $5,000 from a bank and cannot pay it back you are in trouble, but make that $500,000 with a run into trouble, you have a new partner. The concept of leverage is thematic in urban development from the phrase “people united can never be defeated”, to the appointment of a financial control board that lasted to the end of the 1980s.
The agreement struck was to build equity through housing rehabilitation, rent stabilization, education, and employment. Community control of schools and ideas on how to create neighborhood government matured along with community-based development corporations in partnership with charitable foundations and city agencies. They had one purpose. Confront the city’s issues directly before them and create a better city. It worked, but new problems without easy solutions dug into the city’s flesh as irreversible displacement and permanent homelessness.
Displacement and Homelessness
Shortly after the control board was released of its major powers over the NYC budget, David Dinkins was selected as mayor to provide for a reasonable transition to the changes that would be implemented by Rudy Guiliani, a tough no-nonsense, anti-gang criminal prosecutor (I know, ironic isn’t it.) followed by Michael Bloomberg who would bring the housing displacement process into full force through a comprehensive rezoning of the city. Bloomberg would leave the Republican party for his second term, (wait for a memoir on why) but he aggressively set the stage for adding density to NYC in a trade with agreeable private developers for affordable housing. The trade added floor for 20% of new housing units for families earning 80% of the area median income (AMI). A little time with NYC’s chart on what is affordable (Here) will prove to you that this program is designed to produce displacement with a developer incentive zoning tool, also known as “inclusionary housing” which is as inclusive as “right to work” laws are of labor unions.
The following is a brief examination of the causes of displacement. The solutions and remedies offered at its conclusion do not include zoning as one of them. In fairness to Mike, his comment on the issue was, “Hey, this was the only game in town, so you’re either in or out.” To this extent he is correct, the Federal response to urbanization continues to allow the market to have its way until it doesn’t and a great recession was not far off. What is poorly understood is how low- and moderate-income people are finding housing in the suburbs for work and affordability by combining unrelated individuals and families in shared housing arrangements and doing so as under the radar as possible.
Evidence of failure to implement the remedies for displacement is in the number individuals and households (largely women with children) are estimated in an urban area. A detailed look at this is described in a brief article found in an article entitled A New America (Here) It describes the begins of a Federal role in housing production, infrastructure and economic mobility due to the rise of displacement, formal and informal homelessness in America. Here is a brief excerpt:
“One number above all other metrics suggests a housing affordability and infrastructure emergency is pending. It is around 40,000 people living in NYC shelters with a growing percentage of emotionally distressed and mentally ill people in the population. The number alone is less telling than realizing how and why it is staying and lasting at this number for decades. Homelessness has become a production function of cities. In NYC, an additional 35,000 people by official estimates are homeless as transient or invisible. There are no rules or initiatives to stop these numbers from exponential growth.”Rex L. Curry