Designers of the Nature City All of the answers are right here in tiny forms as this glimpse from Timothy Beatley, author of Green Urbanism (there are ads)
Would Real-Time Digital Be Useful? Georgia Institute of Technology’s students are using CCTV video to map actual vehicles and people into Google Earth. Would this help or hinder the public dialogue on planning and community development?
Key Components of Ann Arbor’s Main Stree
In comparison to all of the digital animation of urban life out there, the following is fresh air just outside the fantasy world of a movie theater. Thanks Kirk, any other small college towns in MI like Albion, Kalamazoo, or Detroit have a main street. On the point of digital exploration there are exceptions.
To New Yorkers, these “one street wonder – pedestrian pocket” stories are instructive. Our density puts these streets throughout the city, but we tend to disregard their beauty and importance. The urban design investment could help by finding more work like the above or finding a way to send Kirk off to examine places like Denver’s 16th Street for a comparison. The peak at what is possible is illustrated in this early morning walk by a casual observer. It is bumpy but worth a moment, before moving on.
Perhaps it is obligatory is NYC’s plan to reduce space for vehicles with plazas for people, but NY Times reporter David W. Dunlap explains it with a rye sense of history in this NYT video.
All of this aside, one key question has to be asked. How can the places like those selected above become the subject of the ideas briefly outlined in the following bit of instruction from Janine Benyus author of “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature”? Please forgive the introduction… it is well worth a few seconds of aggravation.
In 1996, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) deregulated telecom services in NY, promising that increased competition would bring down prices for cable, internet, and phone service and improve service, including bringing high-speed internet to all New Yorkers. Instead, 20 years later, New Yorkers are paying too much and getting too little while a digital divide based on access to information grows, and good-paying jobs are lost. The PSC has started a proceeding to evaluate the state of telecommunications in New York State by issuing a report by its staff (the report is called Staff Assessment and can be accessed here). They have set up public hearings throughout New York State in July and August 2015 (See Update in Oct 2015 here)
The New York City hearing Wednesday 15 July 2015 (See AKNA Testimony)
Common Cause/NY urged anyone concerned with the state of telecommunications (internet, cable, and phone) to testify. A robust turn-out by public and tech community members will get the PSC smart to the real state of telecommunications in New York. If Verizon lies to us, why not to the PSC?
Goal: reliable, affordable high speed internet, cable and telephone service
Following is some of the experience at the AKNA
In early 1972, the telecom schematic for the south side of Albemarle Terrace was drawn as part of a general order to document telephone installations. This is followed by three orders #21710 (1976), #96727 (1982), #27483 (1994), and a final notation to the schematic made in 2001 that looks like the phrase expressed by the term “SNAFU.”
In the Fall of 2001, Verison installed a splice in a good shaft on the gable wall of 2126 Albemarle Terrace was installed. It seals telecom lines for the south side of the terrace (buildings in the photo above on the right). There are no further revisions made to the Tabular Record for Account Code 32C, Tax District 500 P for C.O. Area Brooklyn 050 Division. This is the last recorded project. The result of the reconstruction of “Ragga Muffin,” a retail clothing store on Flatbush Avenue, led to the removal of phone lines on their roof to the roof of the adjacent Kentucky Fried Chicken.
In the Spring of 2011, Cablevision (Optimum) was rolling out 75 Ohm drop cable to the two terrace blocks and sent a representative door to door to pre-sign up customers. They were offering to buy out any Direct TV subscribers who had contracts.
They started, but some of the neighbors (mistakenly) asked them to stop because Cablevision was cutting into the sidewalks and patching them with asphalt. Some homeowners were concerned that they would then be open to Landmark violations because of the damage to the sidewalk and/or responsible for the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged sidewalk sections.
Note: the NYC Landmarks Commission would be concerned, but their jurisdiction is limited to the facades of buildings on the Terraces. Violations to the facades of the district would be the subject of a lien on the property by the City of New York on the property that would have to be cleared before a sale. As for all the rest (gardens, and so on), our care and sensitivity are expected.
Eventually, Cablevision repaired the sidewalks with cement, but Cablevision stopped the fiber rollout. A tragic circumstance of blaming the victims and lack of public leadership in basic enforcement of franchise agreement. Nick and Raina (of Kenmore) called Cablevision several times, trying to get them back. Getting past the customer service reps is impossible, and they have no idea and cannot help.
In the Fall of 2013, AKNA conducted a survey to use the information to lobby for assistance. The lesson learned here was to have the lobbying strategy in place before taking the survey. See the survey data here.
In the Fall of 2015, two Optimum technicians put a ladder up the gable wall of 2126 with a huge spool of 75-ohm drop cable to serve their commercial clients. And in the Spring of 2015, a series of Verizon technicians entered the south side of Albemarle Terrace (even numbers) to repair landlines. The story on the north side of the block is long and needs to be told. I put a brief video presentation for AKNA here to describe our deplorable telecom conditions.
In the Summer of 2015 residents of the south side of Albemarle Terrace managed to get the attention of a Verizon Engineer who after considerable analysis presented a plan for moving forward for the south side and for all of the Terraces with one caveat — the permission of residents to move forward.
The “right of way” process was completed for the FTTP (fiber to the premises (image here) and the details of it are here.
As the Summer of 2016 began to fold over the hope of a Spring installation suggested on the “right of way” documents we signed, a draft was a letter written. The intent is to send it to everyone our small band of patient believers could influence. The first draft read as follows:
We are 390 people in 140 households that have bent over backward to get Cable Vision, Time-Warner or Verizon to provide us with service. We recently completed a project led by Lourdes, Engineering (NJ) in contract with Verizon Engineering with all of the forms required of us to assure the provision of service. Like Cable Vision and Time-Warner, Verizon remains unavailable for comment or the courtesy of a response due to ‘contractual issues’, and franchise agreements all seen by us as the haze of the telecom wars, union/corporate misdirection coupled with the ineptitude of public agencies and political representatives.
I hope you have staff on this or committees put to the task but first find out who is buying their lunch as nothing is happening, information is not flowing and in a democracy, only one group of people pay the price of failed leadership in the brave new world of too big to fail.
In closing, we remind you of Margaret Mead and her point about not doubting the ability of a small group of people to change the world, as it is the only way it ever has changed. We, therefore, leave you with this one thought that we are just 140 households, and given our history of patience, we are now very interested in creating change. Look us up.
Sincerely yours, The Residents.
Then as winter settled in we received this note:
Dear resident, The local deployment team has indicated that construction is underway. Barring any unforeseen delays, service will be available in January 2017. You will receive confirmation when you can place an order for service.
Representatives from the local deployment team met with Mr. Rex Curry, the owner of 2126 Albemarle Terrace, and went over different design plans. He indicated that he will be in contact with all of his neighbors and will relay information to the association. You might want to check with him for more specific information.
Thank you and best regards,
Will Freshwater Verizon FiOS TV | Sr. Consultant, Contract Management Video Franchise Management Team One Verizon Way, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rex Curry did meet with some of the guys from Lourds, but not about schedules or sharing update information. But, as you all know we are beg for forgiveness kind of group. The first rule of management Will be, information weakens as it moves toward the top, while decisions remain best when made closest to the source of the relevant information.
The Hopeful Prologue
Well, who knew it would take so long to get service? Our work ranges from being super polite and meeting some really nice people from V to conducting work with enraged groups of researchers trying to find out what is going on. We may never know what worked or didn’t work, but we can always ask for forgiveness.
P.S. if you care to respond, please do so through the website so that all our residents can participate. Anyone wishing to add something about the “existing condition” of your phone, satellite, or internet service, please do so in the COMMENTS section below.
A summary of the communication and data services currently in use by house number would also help us assess needs and/or compare costs. This data was )compiled. Those willing to share ISP provider data (DSL modem, satellite, and so on) and the monthly cost say so, and IT team will follow up directly. It will be used to update the first AKNA Survey
Following is a review of the Special District language. The view expressed in the Department of City Planning’s Zoning Handbook is that the advent of contextual zoning has reduced the demand for special district formation (e.g., Clinton type protection is between the lines of this policy) and thereby raises the bar for the status of special in the zoning text.
For example, the special district player in Washington Heights is made special by the alleged need to build a 7-story deep bathtub in Manhattanville and then go up 10 to 15 stories to serve Columbia’s interest in a 21st c. campus. It is not likely that CD12 (aka displacement city) will need to protect itself (as in Clinton) or promote this form of specialness as a blue zone approach. To give it a try, the following is offered as a method for discovering language or precedents that may prove helpful in determining a course of action on this theme.
Before the passage of contextual zoning, the most widely used affirmative zoning technique was special district zoning. This technique permits areas with unique characteristics to flourish rather than be overwhelmed by standard development. Over the years, the Department of City Planning (DCP) has codified special zoning districts to achieve specific planning and urban design objectives for limited, well-defined areas. Each district stipulates requirements and provides zoning incentives for developers who offer the specific urban qualities the Commission looks to promote in that area. It has proven to be a lawful way of using private capital to carry out public policy, but not without its challenges.
We have an interest in reviewing them all with the assistance of a small graduate team of aspiring planners. The DCP has combined access to these places by Borough — a link will take you to all of them.
Excluding the banner, the special districts in New York City using a simple word count is as follows: Manhattan (30) Brooklyn (13) Staten Island (6) Queens (3) Bronx (4).
Special Atlantic Avenue District (Brooklyn) The Special Atlantic Avenue District was created to preserve the scale and character of Atlantic Avenue, including certain architectural features of the buildings. The special district provides flexibility in arranging building bulk, mandates street-level commercial uses, and establishes design guidelines for renovation and new construction. Demolition of buildings is prohibited except for unsafe structures or to make way for a new development for which a building permit and financial commitments have been secured. To improve the visual character of the avenue, special sign regulations are imposed for commercial establishments.
Special Battery Park City District (Manhattan) The Special Battery Park City District was created to govern extensive residential and commercial development in an area close to the business core of Lower Manhattan, following a master plan for Battery Park City.
The centerpiece of the master plan is the office complex. To the north and south of this complex are two large residential neighborhoods with street-level retail uses. One central element of the plan is a continuous esplanade providing public access to the Hudson River waterfront. In addition, the district contains special design controls concerning floor area ratio, required building walls, and permissible building height.
Special Bay Ridge District (Brooklyn) The Special Bay Ridge District was established to protect the existing scale and character of the Bay Ridge community. The special district distinguishes the scale of development in the midblock from that on the avenue frontage. The midblock street zone encourages two- and three-family homes with a maximum height of three stories. The Avenue Zone promotes the rehabilitation of existing structures and limits new development to a six- to eight-story maximum. In addition, notable setbacks, curb cuts, open space, tree planting, and ground floor commercial requirements have been included to preserve the character of the existing street wall both along the avenues and side streets.
Special City Island District (Bronx) The Special City Island District was adopted to preserve the nautical uses and low-rise residential character. The special district regulations restrict the size and illumination of business signs, limit building heights to three- to five stories, and ensure adequate parking. The only commercial and manufacturing use permitted are those which reflect the nautical flavor of the island or serve the retail needs of the residents.
Special Clinton District (Manhattan) The Special Clinton District in Manhattan was created to preserve and strengthen the community’s residential character, maintain the mixture of income groups present in the area, and ensure that Clinton is not adversely affected by new development.
Special Coney Island Mixed-Use District (Brooklyn) The Special Coney Island Mixed-Use District was established to stabilize residential development while protecting the area’s industrial base. The district allows limited new residential infill and requires special permits for significant new industrial products. Existing residential buildings are permitted for enlargements, alterations, and repairs, and construction of new residential buildings is allowed if the buildings are next to an existing residential or community facility use. New manufacturing is limited to specific light industries compatible with residential uses.
Special Franklin Street Mixed-Use District (Brooklyn) The Special Franklin Street Mixed-Use District was established to balance residential and industrial uses by remapping the area from an M1-1 district to an R6 (M1-1) district. The district allows residential and community facility uses according to R6 district regulations. All existing industrial uses may expand by 3,000 square feet [? Size of a tennis court], or 50 percent, whichever is less. A more extensive expansion may be granted by a special permit from the City Planning Commission.
A new user group, Use Group M, has been established, allowing light industries and commercial uses in Use Groups 6, 7, 9, and 11 to occupy vacant storefronts.
Special Fulton Mall District (Brooklyn) The Special Fulton Mall District in Downtown Brooklyn was established to create an attractive shopping environment in a city street mall plan. Special retail use, sign, facade, and circulation improvement regulations are provided. In addition, a special assessment district has been created, through state legislation, to maintain the mall.
Vehicular traffic (except buses) is prohibited within the mall. Major public amenities required within the district include improved transit access, street furniture, street lighting, tree planting, and special sidewalks and roadbeds.
Special Garment Center District (Manhattan) The Special Garment Center District was created to maintain the viability of apparel production in selected mid-blocks in the city’s Garment Center by making a Preservation Area within which the conversion of manufacturing space to office use is restricted. Conversion to office use in the Preservation Area is permitted only by certification of the City Planning Commission that an equal amount of comparable floor area has been preserved for specified manufacturing uses. The legality of this unique district is currently being litigated.
Special Grand Concourse District (The Bronx) The Special Grand Concourse District was created to protect the distinctive art deco composition and scale of the Grand Concourse by establishing bulk and design regulations and limiting commercial uses to designated locations that will not conflict with the boulevard’s traditional residential character. The district consists of a Residential Preservation Area and three commercial sub-areas. New construction must conform to R8X (Alternate 1) guidelines.
Special Greenwich Street Development District (Manhattan) The Special Greenwich Street Development District was established to foster and promote the orderly expansion of commercial development in Lower Manhattan adjacent to Battery Park City and the World Trade Center.
This district attempts to implement an integrated plan for improved pedestrian and vehicular circulation and to encourage the development of a variety of retail and service establishments to meet the needs of the area’s working population. This is accomplished through a series of pedestrian circulation improvements and certain lot improvements in the district for floor area bonuses.
Some unique features of this district are its provisions for involving both the developer and appropriate public agencies in constructing specific pedestrian circulation improvements.
Special Hillsides Preservation District (Staten Island) The purpose of the Special Hillsides Preservation District is to preserve the hilly terrain and unique natural features of Staten Island by reducing hillside erosion, landslides, and excessive stormwater runoff. The primary concept for regulating development under this special district is the slope coverage approach. As the development site becomes steeper, the permitted building coverage decreases, but the permissible floor area on the site remains the same.
Special Hunters Point Mixed-Use District (Queens) The Special Hunters Point Mixed Use District was created to permit limited as-of-right status for the enlargement/alteration of existing residential buildings and new infill residential construction. All residential and community facility uses are subject to R5 district regulations. In some cases, a special permit is required for certain residential and community facility uses. New manufacturing and commercial uses, or enlargement of existing buildings containing such services, are allowed as-of-right as long as these developments or enlargements contain no residential uses and do not cause significant adverse environmental impacts. In addition, such new developments or enlargements must meet M1 district performance standards.
The Special Court Square Subdistrict has been created within this special district to encourage high-density commercial development in an area well-served by the subway system. Special Jacob K. Javits Convention Center District (Manhattan)
The Special Jacob K. Javits Convention Center District was established to enhance the pedestrian configuration and appearance of the area surrounding the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. In addition, it is intended to promote new development compatible with the Convention Center by mandating street walls and streetscape improvements that supplement the underlying zoning district regulations.
Pedestrian circulation improvements consist of landscaped sidewalk widenings and through-block walkways, street trees, and retail frontage along Eleventh Avenue. Height and setback regulations govern all new buildings along Eleventh Avenue, the Convention Center Plaza streets, and the through block walkways. In addition, mandated street wall setbacks and sky exposure planes regulate the distribution of building bulk to define the public spaces on which each front and frame the edges of the Plaza.
Special Limited Commercial District (Manhattan) The Special Limited Commercial District attempts to preserve the character of commercial areas within historic districts by restricting commercial uses to those compatible with the historic district and mandating that all commercial uses be in completely enclosed buildings. In addition, limitations are also set for the size and illumination of signs within the special district. One such special district has been mapped in Greenwich Village.
Special Lincoln Square District (Manhattan) The Special Lincoln Square District was established to enhance the character of the area surrounding Lincoln Square as an international center for the performing arts. The district mandates the height of building walls along certain streets and the placement of arcades and types of commercial use at street level as a means of guiding the orderly redevelopment of the Lincoln Square area. In addition, the district offers special floor area bonuses by permit from the City Planning Commission for new development. The following public amenities: mandatory arcades, subsurface concourse connections to subways or subway improvements, and lower-income housing as outlined in the provisions of Inclusionary Housing.
Special Little Italy District (Manhattan) The Special Little Italy District was established to preserve and enhance this community’s historical and commercial character. Special use regulations protect the retail area along Mulberry Street. Other regulations encourage residential rehabilitation and new development on a scale consistent with existing buildings, discourage the demolition of noteworthy buildings, and increase the number of street trees in the area.
Special Lower Manhattan Mixed-Use District The Special Lower Manhattan Mixed-Use District was enacted to permit limited residential development in an otherwise industrial 62-block area in Manhattan south of Canal Street. That portion of the district, which is mapped as an overlay on existing manufacturing zones, permits certain older manufacturing buildings to be converted to loft dwellings and joint living-work quarters for artists. New contextual residential development is also permitted where the district is mapped as an overlay on existing commercial zones. At the same time, retention of the underlying zoning protects the economic vitality of this area.
Special Madison Avenue Preservation District (Manhattan) The Special Madison Avenue Preservation District is intended to preserve and reinforce the unique character of Madison Avenue and the surrounding area (from 61st to 96th streets). Bulk and street wall height provisions limit the height of new development to the scale of existing buildings, require a continuous building facade along Madison Avenue, mandate ongoing ground floor development of a selected list of appropriate shops, and require the provision of usable recreation space at rooftop levels. Within this district, the maximum permissible floor area ratio is 10.0. Since building height is limited, greater building coverage is allowed.
Special Manhattan Bridge District The Special Manhattan Bridge District was established to preserve this Lower Manhattan community’s residential character, minimize residential relocation on development sites, and provide for selective demolition and rehabilitation of existing buildings. A special floor area bonus is allowed to provide new community facility space and dwelling units for low- and moderate-income families. It is possible to transfer development rights from a site containing existing buildings to new development within this district. The district mandates that street trees be planted in connection with new development. Unless renewed, this district was designed to “lapse” on September 1, 1991. Have to update this, any of you all have a line on this…
Special Manhattan Landing Development District The Special Manhattan Landing Development District guides off-shore development from Battery Park to the Manhattan Bridge along the East River. This district is under review.
Special Midtown District (Manhattan) The Special Midtown District was established to guide all development within the midtown central business district. The special district includes three areas of special concern that are subject to additional regulations. These sub-districts are the TheatreSubdistrict, the PreservationSubdistrict, and the Fifth AvenueSubdistrict.
The Special Midtown District has a base FAR of 15.0 along avenue frontages and a FAR of 12.0 in the mid-blocks. The base FAR in the Preservation Subdistrict is 8.0 to restrict development on the side streets surrounding the Museum of Modern Art. The base FAR of the Theatre Subdistrict core (on Broadway and Seventh Avenue frontages around Times Square) is set at 14.0 FAR, the FAR in the mid-blocks between Sixth and Seventh Avenues is set at 12.0, and the FAR in the mid-blocks between Broadway and Eighth Avenue is 10.0.
The core of the Theatre Subdistrict has the highest concentration of legitimate theaters and entertainment-related uses. Therefore, the Theatre Subdistrict requires a City Planning Commission special permit to demolish any of the 44 legitimate theaters that are not designated landmarks.
The Theatre Subdistrict has special use and signage requirements (in keeping with the area’s character). A flexible development rights transfer provision has been established for the preservation of landmark theaters. In the Theatre Subdistrict, a new building above a certain size must reserve at least five percent of its floor space (not FAR) for entertainment and theater-related uses. Areas outside the Preservation Subdistrict and the Theatre Subdistrict are eligible for an as-of-right FAR bonus for urban plazas, through-block galleries, and theater retention. The only bonus available in the Theatre Subdistrict core is the City Planning Commission special permit bonus for rehabilitation listed theaters. The Preservation Subdistrict is not eligible for any floor area bonus. Other remaining areas can receive a floor area bonus for subway station improvements and the rehabilitation of theaters.
Certain urban design features, such as continuity of street wall and retail uses, off-street relocation of existing subway stairs, and provision of on-site pedestrian circulation spaces, are mandated. The special district also includes certain use and signage controls for the Fifth Avenue and Theatre Sub-districts. Special daylight evaluation criteria are included to ensure the availability of light and air on midtown streets. The Special Midtown District represents a shift away from discretionary zoning to more predictable, as-of-right development.
Special Natural Area District (the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island) The purpose of the Special Natural Area District is to preserve unique natural characteristics, such as aquatic, biologic, geologic, and topographic features having ecological and conservation values, by reviewing all new developments and site alterations on primarily vacant land. Natural features are protected by limiting topography modifications, preserving trees, plant and marine life, and natural watercourses, and requiring clustered development to maximize the preservation of natural features.
Under the regulations of the special district, the City Planning Commission must certify that all new development in mapped natural area districts meets applicable preservation standards. Special natural area districts have been mapped in the Greenbelt and Von Briesen Park areas of Staten Island, in Riverdale, and in Fort Totten. These areas are endowed with steep slopes, rock outcrops, creeks, and a variety of botanic environments.
Special Northside Mixed Use District (Brooklyn) This mixed-use district is designed to meet the needs of a neighborhood where housing and industry co-exist. The City Planning Commission selectively mapped mixed-use areas — R(M) when the area is primarily residential and M(R) when it is industrial — to allow controlled residential or light manufacturing expansion where such uses can grow and function without conflict. This and the Coney Island district were the forerunners of MX (I know I worked on them).
R(M) and M(R) districts combine the regulations for R6 and M1 areas. In an M(R) district, manufacturing uses are permitted to develop in the same manner as in any other M1 district. Existing residences may be enlarged and new residential construction is permitted as-of-right on blocks that are already primarily residential. New residential construction is permitted on certain other sites after approval of a special permit by the City Planning Commission.
In an R(M) district, residential uses are permitted to develop in the same manner as in any other R6 district. Limited expansion of selected light industries that do not conflict with residential uses is permitted. Other industries become non-conforming and are allowed to remain but not to expand. New industrial development requires a special permit from the Commission.
Special Ocean Parkway District (Brooklyn) The purpose of the Special Ocean Parkway District is to strengthen the existing character and quality of the community and to enhance the scenic landmark designation of Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. All new community facility developments or enlargements are limited, except by special permission, to the residential bulk regulations of the underlying districts. All developments with frontage on Ocean Parkway are required to provide a 30-foot unobstructed front yard, subject to limitations on paving and landscaping, thereby preserving the character envisioned by the original designer of the parkway. Accessory off-street parking for all new developments must be completely enclosed and all new developments along Ocean Parkway are required to provide street trees. Isn’t that special…
Special Park Improvement District (Manhattan) The Special Park Improvement District was created to preserve the character and architectural quality of Fifth and Park Avenues. It limits the height of new buildings to 210 feet or 19 stories, whichever is less, and mandates street wall continuity.
Special Planned Community Preservation District (The Bronx, Manhattan, Queens) The Special Planned Community Preservation District designation protects the unique character of well-planned communities that have been developed as a unit. Those communities characteristically have large landscaped open spaces and a superior relationship of buildings, open spaces, commercial uses, and pedestrian and vehicular circulation. In many cases, they have been threatened by development pressures. No demolition, new development, enlargement, or alteration of landscaping or topography is permitted within the district except by a special permit of the City Planning Commission. Preservation districts have been mapped in Sunnyside Gardens, Fresh Meadows, Parkchester, and Harlem River Houses.
Special Scenic View District (Brooklyn) The Special Scenic View District is intended to prevent outstanding scenic views from a public park, esplanade, or mapped public place. No buildings or structures are allowed to penetrate a scenic view plane except by a special permit of the City Planning Commission. To protect the waterfront view of the Lower Manhattan skyline, Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge, a special scenic view district has been mapped for the area west of the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade.
Special Sheepshead Bay District (Brooklyn) The Special Sheepshead Bay District was devised to encourage development that will strengthen and protect the neighborhood’s unique waterfront recreation and commercial character. In the area immediately north of the fishing fleet wharves, commercial uses are restricted to uses that support waterfront and tourism-related activities.
All new development along Emmons Avenue must provide widened sidewalks, street trees, and plazas which may contain sitting areas, landscaping, kiosks, and cafes. Floor area bonuses are provided for plazas, arcades, usable residential open space and additional accessory commercial parking. Special density and height limits have been established. This district is under review.
Special South Richmond Development District (Staten Island) The Special South Richmond Development District was established to guide the development of predominantly vacant land in the southern half of Staten Island. The special district maintains the densities established by the underlying zones and ensures that new development is compatible with existing communities.
To maintain the existing community character, the district mandates tree preservation, planting requirements, controls on changes to the topography, height limits, and setback and curb cut restrictions along railroads and certain roads. It restricts construction within designated open space (a defined network of open space set aside for preservation in its natural state). To preserve designated open space without penalizing the owners of such space, owners are permitted to transfer development rights from the designated open space to the balance of their property. The developer must submit a topographic survey and a report on the availability of public services as a prerequisite to any application for development. A performance bond must also be provided to assure continued maintenance and improvement of public open space.
Special South Street Seaport District (Manhattan) The purpose of the Special South Street Seaport District is to facilitate the preservation and restoration of the seaport’s historic buildings following an approved development plan. The low scale of the port is retained by transferring development rights above the low buildings to specified neighboring locations for commercial development.
Special Transit Land Use District (Manhattan) The Special Transit, Land Use District relates development along Second Avenue to a future subway line. The special district requires builders of developments adjoining subway stations to reserve space in their projects by providing ease for public access to the subway or other subway-related use. The resulting new subway entrances and mezzanines would be airy, attractive, and functional instead of sidewalk obstructions that impede pedestrian circulation. The district is mapped at locations between Chatham Square and East 126th Street.
Special Union Square District (Manhattan) The Special Union Square District was established to revitalize the area around Union Square by encouraging mixed-use development. Its urban design provisions provide compatibility between new products, existing buildings, and Union Square Park. The district mandates ground-floor retail uses, off-street relocation of subway stairs, and the continuity of street walls. In addition, unique streetscape and signage controls enhance the physical appearance of the district. Within this district, a floor area ratio bonus for subway improvements is available by special permit of the City Planning Commission.
Special United Nations Development District (Manhattan) The Special United Nations Development District attempts to guide the midtown area adjacent to the United Nations. A significant feature of the district regulations is a unified design concept. In addition, the primary floor area ratio for the district was increased from 10.0 to 15.0 to promote exceptional public amenities needed in the area and to implement the development plan.
In super generalized terms, by 2030, there will be nearly eight billion people on the earth. About two billion will live in informal settlements throughout the world. Almost one billion people live in those distinctive and creative enough to become projects for investigation.
There are many settlements to discover, and that is your task. Find colleagues and share a phrase from the poetry of Octavio Paz describing the sprawling urban landscape of Mexico City as “a paradise of cages.” Is that an excellent description as well as carefully judgmental? However, a visit to SenseableMIT reveals a different assessment. The tech invasion of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro is a unique form of physical research. The MIT site (here) and well worth your time.
The Well Known
The most unwieldy and well-known places are connected to major cities such as Accra (Agbogbloshie), Mumbai (Dharavi), Cape Town (Joe Slovo), and Mexico City (The Favelas, un paraíso de las jaulas). Other settlements within the developed world are far more challenging to locate and define for a cause other than “it’s the best we seem able to do.” As with any other type of constraint, a cage reveals creativity. That, too, is discoverable in the examples below.
Dharavi @ Mumbai
Dharavi slum was founded in 1882 during the British colonial era. For added detail, see Wikipedia. For the context, go to a Google Map.
Agbogbloshie @ Accura
Agbogbloshie is a former wetland known as the dump for locally used electronics from the City of Accra. For added detail, see Wikipedia. For context, go to Google Maps.
Rocinha @ Rio
Rochina is the largest favela in Brazil, located in Rio de Janeiro’s South Zone between the districts of São Conrado and Gávea. For added detail, see Wikipedia. For additional context, go to Google Maps. Finally, go to the MIT links above for more detail regarding the 4D video sketch below.
Sustain this question. How and why are cities producers of homelessness and displacement? List the goals and objectives of a detailed analysis of the cages. Is the conversion of a favela into an explorable fourth dimension, a metaverse, a helpful exercise? How easily could they be made safe and secure? Does the known and possible richness of economic degeneracy of presumed physical decadence produce a quality of life for those who choose to stay, can leave or are willing to return to invest?
Jack Dangermond is the founder and president of Esri, a geographic information system software company approaching $6 billion in assets since its formation in 1969.
The technology to watch systems deteriorate and thrive at the local, regional and global level of observation is available. Jack illustrates the power of geospatial data in a mere six minutes. Still, the solution offered is frustration personified, but only if the tragedy of the commons moves from the pasture to the planet. or the alternative (here) “let’s all work together” is realistic.
Without a doubt, he expresses a powerful sense of urgency. It is worrisome, but Jack sees how geography has a way of combining the self-interest found at every doorstep with the regional thresholds of common interest and, after that, the hope of a global capacity to manage change.
The technological capacity to combine orbiting remote sensing tools and the somewhat ominous ability to predict land/ocean uses as they change is astounding. In addition, Esri’s interest in supporting open source business and pubic agency planning and development data is comforting.
With regular programming and artificial intelligence mapping and analysis, Jack calls upon all people and organizations to the geospatial platform. He sees it as a central tool for understanding local, regional, and global conditions as one with the power to improve planning, policy- and decision-making on the ground in every “layer” imaginable.
Do you or your organization use a GIS system for making decisions in an area of public interest? Examples are housing, public safety, air, and water quality, tenant organizing, public markets, food deserts — you get the idea.
If you are unfamiliar with this resource, consider opening a public account where information is made freely available by ESRI with the help of local, regional, and national organizations. Have a look (here)
An example from a member of The Report is available for review (here).
We must, indeed, all hang together or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately. AND You don’t make progress standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.
Benjamin Franklin and Shirley Chisholm
The glass shape on the five maps below is the rough outline of a Congressional District (CD9). Within it, the district numbers of the City Council, State Senate and Assembly, the Community Board, and School Districts within CD9. Using the links below encourages a broader discussion of representatives regarding their power. The local politics to the global concept is introduced (here). We will focus on one district for now to examine the possibilities of a broader application of engagement practices.
The 40th District is led by Rita Joseph replacing the term-limited M. Eugene. A city council member can provide small amounts of funding for nonprofit organizations in their districts. See the discussion in “connect” below.
Larger community development projects proposed by City Agencies such as EDC and HPD consistently defer to local reps, however, it is usually as a “take or leave” proposition. One such deferral on new housing is discussed (here).
New York State
The Empire State is rightly named as it has the same GDP as Canada (sourced here and discussed here). Over half of its population live in its major urban centers. Often debated corruption issues (here) have weakened public trust. The dollars involved are extraordinary.
The annual budget for NYS is $212 billion. In comparison, NYC’s budget is $98 billion. Both come under intense scrutiny from independent analysts. However, the primary interest of the ordinary resident is not in these mind-bending amounts, but in whether or not the representatives are presenting a clear picture to constituents regarding the quality of life in the places where they live and that their power to influence spending is is being used to focus on equity and fairness.
The Fourteenth Community Board and all of the city’s community districts are composed of people nominated by Borough Presidents and various combinations of city council members. While the participants are solely advisory, a good District Manager and small staff can provide important information. For example, a large development site at the Church/Bedford Avenues the process for leading up to investment in the property will be found (here). A review of issues (here). A brief look at the reasons community boards are often considered dysfunctional is (here).
On September 18, 2007, the school at 2274-86 Church Avenue became a New York City Landmark. The designation report includes “The Town of Flatbush,” “Public Education in Flatbush,” and a description of the campaign to build the now-demolished school. The information also includes a brief biography of the building’s architect John Culyer whose contribution to the development of New York City is unquestioned. That vanished historic structure is in the upper right corner of the map at Church Avenue and Bedford Avenue. Except for the image (above) and the designation report (here), the building became a story, not a place in 2016. Its future as a place that respects the past is now in question.
On March 2, 2016, Sarah Crean wrote its brief epitaph, “Demolished: Landmark Flatbush District #1 School” (here). Although the building lost its structural integrity, the cause of its demolition was a deficiency of interest from potential investors coupled with the lack of initiative by its city government managers.
The Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces Historic District is part of this community’s historical legacy. However, the building loss speaks to what it takes to save a landmark. In late 2021 the construction of Nine DeKalb Avenue (Brooklyn’s First Supertower) neared completion at 73 stories. It will offer over 400 condominium apartments for sale and occupancy in 2022. It seems unlikely that this massive structure would express historic preservation values, but there is a story here.
In 1932, the architects Halsey, McCormack & Helmer designed the hexagonal structure of the original building on the site as a bank. Due mainly to the building’s impressive atrium and the decade in which it is a part, it became a New York City Landmark in 1994. With the permission of the city’s Landmarks Commission, the new architects (ShoP) integrated the bank into the final design. The initial debate on this development is whether integrating the original design into the building is appropriate. From an architectural critic’s point of view, it has succeeded.
Nevertheless, from a “development as social change” perspective, the debate could not be more heated or significant. Turn the page.
The Albemarle-Kenmore Terrace Historic District was designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on July 11, 1978. The designation was due to the work of the Albemarle-Kenmore Neighbors Association (AKNA). A brief history of this effort will be found (here).
If you have an interest in the preservation of the buildings that comprise this district please subscribe. If you are a participant in the ongoing debate on the role of the NYC Landmarks Commission as a conservation partner in the city’s land-use development you are welcome to subscribe. The members of the AKNA will consider participation in support of your interests.
Chapter 74 of the New York City Charter (here) empowers the eleven-member commission to designate a landmark, landmark site, interior landmark, scenic landmark, or historic district. The membership of such commission shall include at least three architects, one historian qualified in the field, one city planner or landscape architect, and one realtor. The membership shall include at least one resident of each of the five boroughs.
Use the link below to see a full version of this map and the article. A strategy to protect the community from the likelihood of more intense rainfall is available now. Question the integrity of the E21 Street catch basins due to recent construction. (E21 Post) This is a reasonable first step. Would you explore Portal 311 (here) on this issue?
About 180,000 small residential buildings in NYC are vulnerable to rainfall flooding – 168,000 have basements, 123,000 below grade. In addition, the community is susceptible to “nuisance flooding,” however, the city’s data is incorrect regarding the “below grade” data.
Issue: The community has been made more vulnerable due to concrete and other material dumping into the catch basins at Kenmore and Albemarle. As the map suggests nuisance and deep flooding surround the historic structures of the community, along with new multi-story construction. An investigation may be needed. Mitigation may be essential. However, AKNA, the school, and whatever the new Church-Bedford site will yield ad “development” would likely be at the lower end of a very long list of remediation actions under the heading of flooding resiliency for this city. Assurances are needed with all new construction.
A 311 Portal is available to call out this problem. A good first step has been to question the data. Note the new build (existing and proposed) is not on the map, and second, call out trouble with the catch basins on the East 21st. Street and wherever you see a problem. I have observed three dumping acts that could have compromised catch basins along E21 Street. They were, 1) during construction of the new building on E. 21st. 2) during construction on Albemarle Terrace and 3) during sidewalk repairs along with the Dutch Reform Church. Only the new E21 construction was reported.
Lucy Walker captures the horror of California wildfires and explores the “global fire crisis” in a CBSN two-hour documentary.
After the first hour, the horror of fire is well established. Then another source of horror in the documentary begins. Reconstruction with the presumption of resilience with new re-building standards accompanied by comprehensive resistance to all forms of mitigation. Only the fire is permanent. Everything else can be taken to ash.
Embers function like a virus.
Destruction produces an unusual libertarian contract that Ms. Walker describes as a form of “self-immolation under the mantra of personal freedom,” Her European values are carried in no small part due to two horrifying wars of fire. This American reaction made her California experience seem “insurmountably foreign.”
Last word. The Westcoast fires may seem insurmountably foreign in the Northeast, but it is not wise to think in his way.
I was a director of a community service department at Pratt Institute when I first came to Albemarle Terrace in the early and late 1970s. My students and I were conducting land use and building condition surveys for the Flatbush Development Corporation. At that time, there wasn’t a block in Flatbush that did not carry the burden of a vacant or abandoned building. The survey helped to prioritize the energy of a community-based nonprofit development corporation in its preservation efforts.
I also knew the area in our work for Irving Choban to produce an architectural details record of Flatbush Town Hall (Synder). As a lawyer and historian, he was tenacious in saving this High Victorian structure (more here), getting it on the National Register to prevent demolition in the late 60s. It became New York City Landmark in 1966. He was a tenacious man. He lived on Kenmore Terrace. He is why we live in a historic district.
In 1998, I brought my wife to see Albemarle Terrace and meet with Richard and Dorothy Montague. They raised their two boys and decided to move to upstate New York and sell their home on Albemarle Terrace. I knew Richard as a writer for the New York Post. The day Rupert Murdoch took it over, he and Roberta Gratz, author of “The Living City,” left the Post to its dust and grime. Along with Roberta, Richard’s greatest joy in writing is to chronicle moments directly in front of all of us. He wrote the following article about our little part of New York as an editorial for Newsday. I hope you enjoy it, and it is a beautiful bit of writing. It describes what it was like in 1978 when they learned they had succeeded in sustaining a part of Brooklyn’s history through its architecture.
Two Short Blocks of a Great City’s Past
Richard Montague (1931-2018) Newsday Sunday, July 23, 1978
“Like any place else, New York’s essential characteristics are rooted in times past.”
Nathan Silver, Lost New York
A little after 8 o’clock on a recent Wednesday evening, a Brooklyn lawyer named Irving Choban and his wife, Rosalind, had an open house for their neighbors.
The house is an attractive two-story brick structure on a dead-end street in northern Flatbush. It is older than either of the Chobans; it is 59. Along with 30 other similar buildings close by, it has been designated the day before by New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission as a part of a new “Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces Historic District.”
So, for the next couple of hours, in the Chobans’ comfortable living room at 2118 Kenmore Terrace as full of cheerful people, all members of the terraces’ block association, celebrating their official recognition.
That was a landmark for everybody too. Represented by Choban, who is the official historian of Flatbush, and Donna Sanft of Albemarle Terrace, the association began asking its first hopeful questions about how to go about obtaining “landmark status” five years ago this fall.
The new Albemarle-Kenmore historic district is one of the smallest in New York. There were 31 others Brooklyn Heights, for instance), plus 526 individual landmarks, 13 interior landmarks, including Radio City Music Hall, and five scenic ones, of which Central Park is the best known. The commission has sought out, examined, and designated them all in only 13 years.
Sometimes the choices are easy, undisputed, and without commercial implications. Other times, as demonstrated by years of litigation in the Grand Central Terminal case just decided – in favor of preservation –by the U.S. Supreme court, there could be intense, expensive contention. In either case, the values involved are always appreciably more than financial.
The new Brooklyn landmark is “historic” because, as a commission survey puts it, the terraces built between 1916 and 1920 are “part of the general history of Flatbush.” They exhibit well cared for examples of the “neo-Federal” style; include designs that developed from the English Garden City movement (adapted to Forest Hills Gardens in Queens in 1903); and were among the earliest row houses to have garages, setting a style that is now standard in many parts of New York.
But there are other features to be appraised; the languorous sway of the tree branches in the vagrant winds of idle summer afternoons; the cascades of red and yellow leaves and bouncing acorns from the oaks under the blazing blue sky of fall; the door wreaths, lights and family carolers at Christmastime, and the small back yards in spring, with their moist flowerbeds, budding shrubs and secret corners hiding moss and violets.
In his book of photographs and thoughts on “Lost New York,” the vanished buildings were torn down over the years, architect Nathan Silver quotes Lewis Mumford: “in the city time becomes visible.” Silver thinks, “Architecture provides the only measurable way to discover the past in the urban environment.”
Discovering the past doesn’t interest everybody. Landmark designation is not automatic preservation of either monuments or neighborhoods. Some have subsided into decay. Others have been daubed with graffiti, chipped, and hacked at, even hauled to scrap metal dealers. Those that have escaped that kind of abuse are not always decently cared for. There has not been a surplus of money for maintenance in recent years.
Nevertheless, the landmarks everywhere in the city serve honorable, dignified, and particularly today, invaluable purposes. They are as different as possible from the fast-food architectural style common in much of New York construction. They were created and built with care, imagination, and civilized intelligence. They are sentinels of a kind, guarding tasteful traditions that are sometimes neglected as the landmarks themselves. They have the artistic durability to reward admiration and care, no matter how long it has been deferred.
Consequently, they are essential to New York’s recovery and restoration as belated fiscal reforms, a revival of industry, accessible jobs, and schools worth of the name. It is inevitable that other monuments and buildings will join “Lost New York.” The vitality of the living city depends a great deal on how many more are found, appreciated, and saved.
If you would like to participate in the ongoing preservation efforts please subscribe (here).
Everyone’s neighborhood is the representation of national issues. The issues reported here describe how it affects me personally, my family, and my neighbors. Those issues can be explored and arranged in the carousels below. The benefits of content management systems used by websites and weblogs such as this one are “tags and categories,” In this case, the content is organized under the parent heading “My Neighborhood.” Sub-categories can then be assigned, such as Internet, politics and plans, and several others that examine issues that reflect my experience, that of my family, friends, and neighbors.
I live in a tiny place on a closed street with just twenty-two, three-story, brick buildings completed before 1920. The New York City Landmarks Commission accepted the residents’ application for designation as a historic district in 1978 (more here).
All of the following are arguments, so before exploring “the neighborhood” The Report recommends reading the basics first (here)
Local to Global Politics
The political structure of dense urban areas reveals the sense of position. It is similar to what a person knows as proprioception. Similar to a person, a political body can be professedly unknowing and still have the capacity to produce decisions and consensus. In effect, accepting faithful democratic leadership allows large populations to take steps up a metaphorical ladder without examining each rung.
Democratic leadership can call people to heroic efforts built on little more than intuitive knowingness of a good purpose. Don’t get this wrong, it can also lead people to bitterness and cynicism. Today, the problems of urban life require a deeper understanding of the ways political science links to the environmental sciences involved in running a city and making its neighborhoods capable of enduring and defeating stress.
The evidence that human beings can change their physiology by thought and intention is growing (here). Moreover, the way we care for ourselves is similar to the practice of managing and building cities. Medical research calls it an interoceptive focus. Urban anthropology calls it Anthropocene. These terms help encourage greater environmental intent in deciding how and where humans re-build the earth from the material of its crust and the goodwill that is natural to our souls.
The “activism” link below will take you to a page (image left) and an opportunity to conduct research and report on issues of importance to you, your community, and our common future in this unique part of the world.
Below, you will find descriptions of our political body as geographically associated with districts of representation. Following that a set of post/article carousels that sketch out ideas that interact with law, politics, and science from the “neighborhood up.” Please participate and enjoy.
The Charter Revision of 1977 created community planning boards in NYC when the decentralization of authority was a popular idea. It aligned with social change forces seeking civil rights and social justice, …
In 2010, Black Rock City (aka Harveywood) was the fourth largest city in Nevada, but only for a short while. The total population was 51,515 paying guests as the marker, not including a couple thousand undocumented, smuggled in amidst the art. Larry Harvey’s motivations vary for having this big party. They change with each new experience, annually repeated since 1986. Perhaps that is why he wears an unusual hat. He is a designer and an architect, a friend and observer of life. He is tightly wrapped by the kind of humor that only a real sense of tension can produce. While its control has surpassed the management capacity of the few unique people that began it all, its epitaph remains incomplete. But one part has been written. Long live Harveywood, but from now on, we will cap this party at 50,000 souls.
Without a doubt, any discussion of establishing a super urban density and a pure wilderness is likely to engage the subject of living in the desert wilderness of northwestern Nevada for a short while as an event. This idea confronts a void, fills it with art and design, and then goes away. Just beneath the surface, there is a lot of responsible talk and action about taking only pictures and leaving only footprints, and thus the Black Rock City party’s actual theme is revealed. It offers real proof of how messy humans will be to make a point. The point is a big one. No matter how temporary, that bit of dessert will always have a mark, and it is a warning.
Ten percent of Planetizen’s Top 100 Public Spaces in the United States were in New York City. It was based on a crowdsourcing survey initiated by regular contributor Chris Whitis. The “interested participants” factor suggests another important point for investigation.
Resource Planning Act Assessment
The acronym “SLAP” describes “space left after planning.” The use of the urban public place demands a new aesthetic. Thus, one makes the meaning of an urban place something more than a preserved hunk of “green” or platform for architecture.
The public space is also a place of last resort, where people can press unrelentingly on the button of unresolved social or economic issues. Of course, we can all name hundreds of places with equal quality or grander views as those listed below, but in an urban design thought experiment — how would the following “top ten” type places work if they were “occupied” by aggressive but thoughtful social change agents?”
Urbanization is only problematic if it cannot be stopped.
Cities build strength in response to restraints. In this context, you can get ten cool open spaces. Once the technology represented by “the city” is restrained to “a geography,” it might be possible to achieve a purpose greater than that of the wilderness. A place that humans can only return to damage.
The Resource Planning Act Assessment issued every decade by the U.S. Forest Service finds the primary cause for the loss of natural forests and rangelands is residential and commercial sprawl, along with other land-use changes. Additional threat factors include climate change, wildfires, insect infestations, bacteria, and fungi. These trends in the nation’s renewable resources project to 2060. Current land-use policies supporting the population and economy threaten the resource base connected to rural areas and the natural habitat disruption.
Protecting the Underground
The Resource Planning Act Assessment is completed every ten years by law in the Forest, and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act, a 1974 law (Pub. L. 93-378). The latest RPA Assessment draft is available for public comment through Sept. 30. Draft and final reports can be accessed (here). Public comments on the draft 2010 RPA Assessment were filed at: http://www.fs.fed.us/research/rpa. The 2020 RPA Assessment is here.
Mentioning the use of parks for “occupied” by aggressive social change agents may have engendered a picture of college students, the disenfranchised, underrepresented, and politically oppressed. What should have entered your thoughts on the subject of protest and change should have been one word — “fungi.” Skeptical? Have a look at SPUN.
Here is some of what the scientists from around the world are saying about ways to save the life on earth that all benefit from but may have never known or understood. Now is the time.
Mycorrhizal fungi are a group of network-forming soil fungi that form symbiotic associations with plants. Nearly all plants form symbiotic associations with mycorrhizal fungi. These associations have shaped life on earth for more than 475 million years.
Fungal networks are one of the biggest untapped levers in climate science. Billions of tons of carbon dioxide flow annually from plants to fungal networks. This carbon flow helps make soils the second largest global carbon sink, after oceans.
Habitat loss is the largest driver of biodiversity loss worldwide. Without their plant partners, fungal networks cannot survive. Logging, agriculture, and urbanization cause drastic disruption to the structure and physical integrity of underground fungal networks. This impairs their ability to sequester carbon, move nutrients, and promote soil aggregation.
Nearly all crops depend on mycorrhizal networks. Yet industrial agriculture employs aggressive tillage, and vast quantities of chemical fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides which devastate fungal networks. Without their fungal partners, crops require more chemical inputs and are more vulnerable to drought, soil erosion, pests, and pathogens.
Extreme temperatures, drought, and floods threaten the ability of global fungal networks to move nutrients and store carbon. Disruptions arising from climate breakdown, like intense wildfires, destroy plants and the fungal networks underground.
The Scientist of SPUN
Evaluation of measures to protect these places from being overwhelmed is requested. Thanks!
One World Trade Center was expected to incorporate a high level of social responsibility in urban design introducing new architectural and environmental standards. Yet when completed in 2013, it will offer on a small footprint, 2.6 million square feet of office space in 70 office floors, a public lobby with a 50-foot ceiling, an observation deck at 1,265 feet above the ground with a restaurant, extensive shopping, and ample parking. Call me crazy, but that reads like the “same old” pitch to me. Millions of dollars are committed to a vast public process for Lower Manhattan Development following the World Trade Center tragedy in a $2 million meeting at the Javits Convention Center. It also gave rise to the “small is beautiful” idea when a dedicated group of design professionals from all fields began to forge a new vision for New York. It also fueled the idea that APA-Metro should establish an Urban Design Committee and press for answers to how public engagement in design and planning can be more effective.
If criticism is a method that gets to the truth, then so be it. But, when it does not, then what? The Urban Design Discussion group put together a “Public Place Public Process” to get started on engagement methods. After all, criticism begins and ends with a public that is by many accounts in a coma. This link opens up a 40 page summary of submissions to an Urban Design Committee. It is a PowerPoint (2.4M pdf): San Antonio Presentation.
The Urban Design discussion combines the thinking of planners, designers, and architects to accomplish one thing – to move social and environmental equity forward on the nation’s list of priorities. The solution to the global challenge is urban.
In 2006, fifty projects identified by New York Magazine (NYM) offered a start by scrunching some of the world’s best architects into a group to stimulate the mind’s eye.
The signatures are clear in the image pictured left. There is coherence as individuality but could an advanced public process improve it as a statement ” of a larger community?”
The lack of reciprocity between the tightly defined images of the developer’s market image research and the experience of the public.
The following examples (1-5 or more) will require ongoing review. As Brooklyn’s northwest coast begins to develop, we expect it to reveal a new public realm in a receding industrial waterfront.
Community pressure produced a demand for inclusionary housing bonuses to exact 20% to 30% of the units as affordable in Brooklyn and opened the gate for the first expansion of the General Exclusion Area, formally known as the Manhattan Exclusion Zone. (Note: all maps are by Jason Lee for New York Magazine)
The Edge: Stephen B. Jacobs; master plan by FXFOWLE and TEN Arquitectos, September 2008 (view NYC Construction Top Projects pdf: here) Scaled back from 1.5 million to 1…. what else?
Palmer’s Dock: FXFOWLE, phase one, 2008; phase two, 2009 (Impact of tax credits on design discussion in Journal of Tax Credits pdf article: here
Financial crises, health care, hunger, income disparity, obesity, poverty, terrorism, and sustainability are examples of wicked problems further complicated by climate change, biodiversity loss, persistent poverty, and food insecurity. The difficulty is knowing how everything happens all at once and why everything is connected to everything else. Wicked, right? Maybe not, with a wicked problem plan for knowing how and why all you need is where. The Report picks Flushing.
RLC – OCCUPY
The planning process for dealing with wicked problems would simultaneously initiate three interdisciplinary actions. Evaluate community business visions, examine technical capabilities, and conduct a comprehensive assessment of community/user needs. If there is a match, you have a plan.
If the geographic units for a constant data flow are clearly established (even as a sketch), it may be possible to fully understand the interdependencies and relationships that reasonably account for billions of interactions. It begins by getting everything to the east of College Point Blvd. to focus on everything west of it with a vested interest. It provides the grist of a plan.
The interest could range from open space access to job retention to affordable housing. It is easy to get resistant to change because the fight is to get a piece of the action.
Beware of the work to produce a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Unregulated agreements between local, influential actors and developers are at the core of the accountability problem for the lack of implementation.
The Flushing Creek environment as it stands now has astounding contradictions. The UHaul is readily available to move displaced families while the Assi Food and Households Goods Market is closed. The vitality of the UHaul appears to stay, while the market is to be replaced with housing and the possibility of retention within a new complex.
Permissible data points and technology set the restraints for the capture and distribution of all the business interests. Gathering these interests determines the full effect of the standing Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) as it attempts to alter the current zoning envelope. These points can also be drawn out for data on a building-by-building, square-foot-by-square-foot basis on a vast set of variables. Of them all, what are the most relevant (see map below).
Another Brief but Interesting Digression
One other vital element too often forgotten is technology demands a continuous ability for experimental thinking. In other words, the process needs art. (See: Galileo). For example, if given an unchanged boundary and the prospect of extensive high-density locations, is it possible for a city’s total floor area to be unlimited and still retain a viable open space ratio? If the answer is an essential yes, how would a rising sea matter?
Back to the Wicked Problem Plan
Extending access to information beyond a library or a laboratory to enrich life requires confidence in integrative disciplines. The tools needed to accomplish robust interdisciplinary methods must first discover the knowledge in people. In this case, the people of Flushing. The meaning of data can be found in a person. Small specialized groups can deal with wicked problems at the local scale. They are strengthened further with rapid communication systems. Where are they? Who are they? They can support a wealth of joint actions and, most notably, a shared understanding of the effort. The grist for a plan becomes known, and for the people, it turns to “it depends” questions.
Apologies – another brief digression
Urban construction is an intentional operation that entangles those nearby. Human responsibility has moved from its single-center (the human in nature) to the duality of multiple centers numbering in billions of known interactions. The new centers are the ones from which gigantic numbers of small groups move toward and away simultaneously. These two forces circle indefinite urbanized structures and their constructions. One force moves to a center (a dot on a map, the centroid example), and another is accelerating outward and away from the data – from wilderness to farm to lanai garden. This human force rarely recognizes the species made extinct to produce a sweet pear for consumption on a high-rise balcony. The centers are unfixed, always incomplete, yet capable of continuously producing observable results of continuous replacement.
OK, OK, put it this way, the data set has been prepared. It awaits your use. The dots (centroids for GIS nerds) on this map represent place-based data. It can be enriched enormously for the empowerment of the people of Flushing. The data is tabla rasa, and it awaits purpose. Who will use it? Who knows how to use it? Find them, and you have a plan. Is there an MYSQL and ArcGIS person available?
Observation of a meaningless or harmless intervention is now impossible. Everything changes once an event is observed. The big difference today is everything in urban development is intentional. For example, we experience design most often in various symbolic and visual communications. One of the more relevant communication documents relevant to this examination is the Generic Environmental Impact Statement which reviews many aspects of state and local EIS processes. (see pdf here). The context of a document such as this stands available for comparisons and critiques of impact.
Any course of action involving the manipulation and management of natural resources may result in altered conditions. The Flushing waterway, from a natural estuary a half millennia in the past to the use of waterways for industrial use a century ago, to the attempt at naturalization in the future, can all be construed as having adverse effects, but know this, all action agendas have conflicting results. Thus, the mitigation argument demands an accommodation to what planners and developers know about the stewardship of natural resources including human life quality. There is no bounded rationale insurance.
We are surrounded by material objects that are products of a design process. Unfortunately, a few products end up as discarded material. A recent article on the Gowanus Canal and Flushing Creek by the Architectural League (here) exposes the issue of what development actually costs. Here is a quote from that article.
Bodies of water (the Hudson River, Bronx River, Flushing Creek, Coney Island Creek, to name a few) receive harbor sewage and legacy contaminants. Industries on a rising waterfront risk release of what are called “fugitive chemicals” with every storm. Aquifers, the city’s last reserve in case of drought or water system failure and Long Island’s sole supply of drinking water, are exposed to indestructible and bioaccumulating “forever chemicals.” Buildings (schools and residences especially) harbor lead paint and pipes. The air is compromised outside and in by emissions from highways and gas cooking stoves.
We engage in work and life through various activities expected of us. We use a long list of organized services. Each is designed to respond to complex systems and environments for living in a city made for play, work, and learning. So the question for a planner serving a community that feels and senses a threat is clear. The best way to get really close to defining the issue is to smell and taste the cash it breaths. Once disclosed Mariana’s critique will not sound like a post-mortem, it would have the sound of hope.
Famous Chinese hot pot chain opens first U.S. restaurant at Tangram in Flushing, from QNS. In the Sichuan cuisine of China, Shoo Loong Kan’s 5,029-square-foot restaurant represents a kind of bipolar urban development. It is unfearful of the long-term impact due to the lack of assigning a share of those costs to the present as “it” looks to the Flushing Creek waterfront.
A Wicked Plan is Better
What is required is a double repositioning of the design problems associated with wicked problem planning in gaining participants within an interdisciplinary forum. The comprehensive plan idea pretends to mash them together, but it does not. The first presumption of planners and participants is that people will move into action based on information. The opposite tends to be true far more often. People will likely engage in analytical reports based on their independent actions using stories based on empirical knowledge they can explain to others. Activity helps make additional information more absorbable, used, and understood as applicable to a current situation. In the day you are in now. The required steps are to move from the familiar and expected to new experiences leading to new data acceptance. The data is always there, always waiting for reasons that will bring it to use. Once established, reciprocity is formed in the learning experience between residents and agents of change. The idea is simple – accept the wicked and deal with it as a thing akin to bull riding in 8-second intervals.
The last aside. The following editorial can be found in The New York Post dated May 3, 1973.
Planning and Communities
When the City maps out community development projects, it is not uncommon to find that the plans as drawn have familiar features. It often turns out that they follow the boundary lines of least resistance.
In other words, an organized neighborhood with a coherent development plan of its own stands an infinitely better chance of challenging proposed “improvements” – under either private or public auspices – than an area lacking the ammunition to fight City Hall.
As this newspaper reported yesterday, professional consultation is available for community organizations with such needs from the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development. Its client is the public.
“Community action” is a familiar phenomenon by now; some politicians’ allegations that it has failed are, in fact, an indication of its success. The non-city planning centers are productively serving similar purposes. When a neighborhood is told that changes are going “according to plan,” it is important that the neighbors share in the drafting.
To know that The Post is today from what it was in 1973 is to know all one needs to know.
Part VI – Planning Together (Is it Doublespeak?) or back to Index
Zoning is used to protect people. Today it exists to help residents oppose change. Something is wrong. It is a metaphor for our times. Here is a story from way back in the olden days– say the 1940s and 50s. Change for the worse has begun.
Council legislation seeks “long-term” planning. (LTCP) Neighborhoods need strategic planning
A decade before WWII, an immigrant family came to the city and turned a small business idea into a large successful business within two generations. Family investors acquired equity in a few land purchases and expanded business locations. The effort ensued with hardship and sacrifice, but investors continued to over the decades to build a community. Then big outside investors began to see the community as safe for investment and ready for displacement.
Small family groups like this began in places such as the Lower East Side in Manhattan. It continues in neighborhoods such as Flushing in Queens today. The same dreams continue to live — acquire capital and invest in expanding local businesses. A bakery factory is envisioned. A storage warehouse and a site for the assembly of human-power-assist vehicles are planned. The vehicles will be designed by brilliant industrial design engineers, the grandchildren of veterans in the Flushing family who served in the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. These plans are done quietly and without much fanfare in the ordinary course of business growth and investment located in an area west of College Point Blvd.
Unknown to this community, investors associated with the New York Real Estate Board meet with the Department of City Planning (DCP) Director. They present several projects coming onto the table for negotiation, and they provide an advisory on pre-planning projects coming off the shelf. The total investment is estimated in 2017 dollars is $250 to $400 billion. The Director is pleased. As sensitive property acquisitions are ongoing, independent calls to the affected community’s business groups and political officials were not advised. At that moment, the dreams and traditions of small local investors are attacked. While considering billions in financial concessions, The DCP, the agency responsible for the city’s land use and community development, became a contributor to durable inequality policies in New York City.
Why does zoning exist to help residents oppose change? Huge residential investors (REITs) can legally combine with large but ordinary local real estate investment groups. They can hire planners and architects to look for opportunities in older, mostly industrial urban areas. In many ways, they appear on the scene like marvels of certainty. In other ways, it is a valid symbol of a tragic time when the availability of overwhelming capital can quietly blame residents for opportunity hoarding, referring to those who had been quietly investing in the community since WWII. (See story on another angle of the subject (here).
Zoning has become the battleground of sides. It offers a binary choice of capital in vast amounts or the perception of comparative nothing. It threatens decades of ordinary neighborhood transformation. It produces well-known t-shirts such as “Blight Me” and “Develop, Don’t Destroy.” Although most development occurs within a set of existing (albeit complex) as of right rules, zoning is now used for various reasons, and perhaps too many. From the basics of land use planning to forecast municipal finance or its use to help with preservation, it has a history of racially motivated exclusion, and more recently, funding affordable housing inclusion. (see Manhattanville) In other words, it is not pro-growth vs. anti-small growth. The zoning situation has become New York City’s wicked problem (wiki).
A Brief Digression
This view of problems has a fascinating history and following. When Richard Buchanan (Case Western) connected design thinking to wicked problems, the impact created a substantial change in problem-solving from definition-to-solution into a condition-change assessment. Read his paper (a pdf is here). The questions surrounding community design draw from planning, architecture, and engineering as creators of a physical realm. However, changes in community conditions occur in the overlap of these professions with the psychology of a place.
In today’s community development practice, we see two separate forces that believe they are correct. Both are at odds on how and why investment functions. It is wicked because the two parties are unaware of the other; thereby, they are without data: their values, outlook, economics, and culture conflict. Points of intervention are possible but difficult to imagine. The uncertainty poses the creativity possible in ambiguity, but the ships have already passed in the night. Finally, the forces of resistance often lead to their repression. Whether imposed or internalized, the impact of repression alters mental health conditions. It is far too easily ignored, but the results of stress, anxiety, and depression have proven harmful to the individual and have a community impact.
The Carbon Neutral Strategy
Calculating carbon footprints is still in its infancy. Still, the standard calculation today is based on an estimate of $400 per ton of emissions. If you are Bill Gates, you more than double it to make another point. He recognizes the Green Premium cost and is quite willing to say he can easily afford to pay it. He is not sure about the rest of us, so he suggests we ask and decide what we can do as individuals.
Policymakers can take on only so many problems at once. Getting on that “only so many” list will require concerted political action. A regional support strategy will help local organizers get on that list. For example, it could alter or stop an environmentally suspect development project in Flushing Queens. Drawing encouragement from regional to citywide to neighborhood organizations willing to focus resources on one example can be used to push climate change to the top of that list.
Political leaders need to sense concerted political action from their constituents. Climate change and the Flushing Meadow project can be encouraged as an example of a grave error that must not be allowed anywhere in the region. Digging into the specifics of these errors will help every participating organization. Some examples are:
The Flushing Development is not paying the Green Premium. The project needs to tell the energy systems companies, services, and utilities what it will pay to address climate change.
The Flushing Developers, architects, and engineers have no idea what a zero-sum, carbon-neutral project would look like.
The developer is only complaining about its profit margin. Simultaneously, the project’s failure and its cost will fall on the city and the state when the community is flooded and stays flooded.
The list of households most likely to be displaced by climate change (flooding/storm surge) is about 4,000 today. The Flushing project could double that figure and quadruple the cost.
A focus on getting a more aggressive regional and citywide partnership on this project is needed. The attention can help produce a carbon-neutral development or stop one that isn’t. Either way, it is an important market signal. The political action statement is straightforward. Not paying attention to the carbon footprint issue today could put your grandchildren on the endangered species list tomorrow. It is that serious. The science of this argument and proof of this project’s failure to recognize the problem is the work that lies ahead.
The big question: Is the idea of a Long-Term Comprehensive Plan capable of adjudication? Can it confirm or refute any of the fears of the people? Can it alter the inexorable facts of climate change and its impact on Flushing? As a BOA site will the developers, provide services and funding covering lifetime health-related illness from work or living on the proposed site. You get the drift.
A Muddling Strategy
Zoning is well-established police power, yet it is officially opposed and challenged, questioned, and denied—a political pawn of progress. Consider the possibility of an impeccable elimination of racism, classism, sexism, and the all-around favorite “placism” in the zoning text and resolution as policy. \Is there a way to bring its original health and safety purpose more explicitly focused on the pace of neighborhood change? Deliberate but incremental negotiations could help charge ordinary people’s expectations with a new interest in community investing. Plans for a mutually determined and purposeful change quality can be absorbed by the community, but gradually. This helps alter the lock on the status quo and governmental privilege systems into more of an emollient for progress.
The New York Metropolitan Region is a megacity, yet zoning (or changes to it) only considers a few blocks at a time. Given mobility throughout this region, its people can live in places where they can become most productive. The missing resource is the lack of information, innovation, and opportunities to meet and optimize these choices. Instead, the “transit-rich” locations in the city are sold for minor capital improvements. These deals between a failing private corporation (MTA) and the local, state, and federal government responsible agencies. The inevitable common-sense conclusion could be zoning is failing communities that are not transit-rich by establishing transportation dependency in all others. A rapidly advancing capacity for equitable movement would be to make everything in the region within reach of everything else within an hour or less.
One excellent example is Downtown Brooklyn, NY that is the most transit-rich region of New York City. The fight over Atlantic Yards an expansive uncovered rail yard serving the Long Island] Railway. New York City partnered with a developer, Bruce Ratner, to develop the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. (contention) The construction of an arena, the Barclay’s Center, was first to develop, to yield the headline. How to Build a Sports Complex by Promoting 2,000 units of Housing. The proposal engendered legal and political battles for a decade. The use of eminent domain, how the developer would bid the project, and even the developer’s vision were challenged in the courts by residents. The Civilians, a musical theater troupe,produced apopular musical farce detailing indignation only to prognosticate the ephemeral promise of affordable housing.
Meanwhile Back in Flushing
In 2010, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation received a grant under the New York State Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program. The State used it to develop plans to replace vacant and underutilized properties and revitalize Flushing’s waterfront area. If approved, the development would serve as an extension of Downtown Flushing. The Special Flushing Waterfront District was established by a vote of 40 to 4 margin on 12/10/2020. This brings the process to the final ULURP process. Unfortunately, we have not seen the application.
Impressive Eye Candy
Flushing is For Sale
The Hill West Architecture firm has an impressive portfolio of projects (here) with a few waterfront locations. However, the Flushing development concept has yet to make it to their list or map all projects (here) real and digital hopes. The proposal’s renderings available now are useless preliminary sketches projecting the total floor area allowed in a set of unchallenged zoning approvals. New York Yimby seems to have the best set of illustrations (here). But let’s pretend the following is real and will be built, and the architecture might look like this project in Brooklyn.
The proposed 1,725 units are criticized for including a minimal amount of affordable housing and 879 hotel units. However, as housing advocates know, hotel rooms are used to house displaced families as an alternative to warehoused children in shelters. Is there an “off-table” agreement here to provide such units as needed, and if so, how might it be included in the city’s incentive package without been seen?
Office space and community facilities, and retail space are estimated at 700,000 sq. ft. Parking & BOH: involves 440,500 square feet, and the waterfront public space may have about 160,000 square feet. Is that closed Assi market sized into this structure? Would the rent be fair? Will there be competitors?
Part V – Wicked Problem Planning or back to Part III on the energy displacement issue, or back to Index
There are nearly one-half-million students of higher education and over 1.1 million students in the NYC public education system. A resource of enormous power given 1) affordability and 2) focus on priorities of the city through scholarships and education incentives. These institutions have an enormous stake in the health, housing, and general welfare of New York City people.
On June 26, 2018, the residents of the Ninth Congressional District had an opportunity to test leadership in Congress on criteria established by voters. Clarke won by a slim margin. Challenged again in 2020 she won again big time. Adem Bunkedekko was the closest rival, capturing 17% of the vote among four other bird-dogging candidates – all democrats.
Political leadership has gone to hell. New York leaders are useful when they respond to an urgent condition on a single issue. There is no outright fear for democracy, because better than most, they know it is practically gone. None of that is occurring. The only live-die-repeat is incumbency and the dead ones are the challengers.
Have a good long look at the candidates and their “watchers.” (See examples: Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball.) Ballotpedia’s fine details are here. Money equals victory. A national watch group, Open Secrets has the data to prove it, including the outliers that illustrate exceptions. The deep end of the data pool is with reports at the New York State Board of Elections.
Leaders with skills in critical thinking, creativity, responsiveness, and obedience will do well. Proof of unselfish giving is through service that includes a record of judgments publicly specified with grace and dignity. After reviewing the public expressions of our federal leaders, are challenges within the party positive and optimistic? Does the officeholder or the challenger have a bias toward getting results? Finally, good leaders know how the practice of listening to be heard gets their constituents to help themselves do the hard stuff.
Adem Bunkeddeko Lost in the first race by a slim margin, and he machine tanked him in the second
He got more votes the second time, yet adding votes from the three additional not really serious, probably “bird-dog” candidates, he would have still lost. The third time is the charm, I said. Off years are best. I hope he will write a review of the loss. Meantime, he now works as an Executive Director for CORO. He has been cultivating young leaders who seek to make a difference in our city and tackles the complex issues affecting New Yorkers. Please drop him a line at email@example.com and if you want to know more before you do that, visit Adem’s Website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. He also has Instagram and Snapchat if you must. If snail mail is your thing, you can write them to this mailing address: Friends of Adem, P.O. Box 130-427, Brooklyn, NY 11213.
Yvette Clarke Drop the candidate a line on the federal website. She has Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. To write via snail mail the local address, 222 Lenox Road, Suites 1 & 2 Brooklyn, NY 11226, and a D.C. address, 2351 Rayburn HOB, Washington D.C. 20515. I would be amazed if you get an answer beyond stat and pat. She is a guaranteed tow-the-line Democrat, so there is that, I suppose.
The national Campaign Finance Institute confirms the long-term success of this legislation in its testimony to the NYC Campaign Finance Board in 2017. (The Act). After thirty years, the NYC CFB has protected voters. Perhaps the best example is NYC representatives sustain the “F” rating from the NRA in their demand for stringent legislation regarding the use and purchase of weapons for war. That is where the feds (your representatives in Congres) come into the picture to confront and confirm national policy.
In NYC, the Campaign Finance Act has kept the local government on the side of working New Yorkers for the last three decades. A $6-to-$1 match of small donations turns a $100 donation into $700. The law has strict contribution limits and an outright ban on all corporate money, and an excellent enforcement record.
Political Action Committees
The Political Action Committees (PAC) come into the picture today as a permanent part of federal election campaigns. They represent almost 40 percent of an elected candidate’s campaign funding. A challenger is far less likely to be supported by a PAC. The PAC phenomenon began in the 1950s, but since then, their corrosive influences over Congressional Representatives reflect the concentration of wealth in the U.S. and the rule that corporations have a right to political speech as people and that money is speech.
Unlike people, wealthy corporations can live forever. Corporate outfits such as the NRA and the Koch brothers have a large bag of political tricks designed by well-paid political operatives to protect specific interests, not including the bot/troll issues that confuse voters further. It was a sign of real trouble when New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer asked his constituents to help fight against Koch Brother attack ads against a fellow Senator, Joe Donnelly (D) from Indiana with a help him Keep His Seat! Email blast.
Representative Government, Election Waves, and Money Three Republican Congressmembers (Faso, Tenney, Katco) in NYS may have “toss-up” elections in 2018. To keep things in perspective Faso’s 2016 spending was: $2,904,089, Tenney’s was $885,895, and Katco’s was $2,384,152. These races could contribute to a wave-election referendum on the chaos in the Executive Branch and the House of Representatives and shift as many as 25 seats to Democrats. (See NY Mag summary here). The 2018 mid-term election might have a single issue.
Peter King, a member of the Republican Party, is completing his 14th term in Congress, having served since 1993, and he quit. Clarke has been there twelve years and barely serves and runs on “good attendance” and perks from PACs.
The playground was made of 12×12 inch pressure-treated Douglas Fir in lengths from three to eighteen feet. The photos say everything. There still is a park there today. The timber is gone, there is a Head Start Center, a fire station/rescue station, and new housing has replaced the tenements that Hilton Als described as burning.
I was on the steps with new beginning thoughts. He was the one demanding to know why I was there, doing “stupid shit”, and I said it was to finish the playground and a place for community theater or shows, pointing to the trellis. The genius of rage came right up into my face at that moment. All he said was I was “a lame, white motherfucker, it’s too late, too fuck’n late, and walked up the steps past me.”
The Genius of Rage
In his closing, Hilton Als read a portion of the Homecoming essay saying, “and now it is happening to you,” and that is when that whole experience of Brownsville came rushing back into my life. (here) I have both of their thoughts in my mind now, Hilton’s and the guy with the knife. It is still happening and it is too late.
This post is motivated by another place-based examination of community development. It is an experiment of mine in looking back at the history of Lincoln Square/Center as an attempt to compare it to the recent five-year build of City Center (here). I’m guessing, but I think the thread of it might be displacement as the transitional function of institutional racism, a cycle of recurrence that must be stopped.
Take a look at all of the “political clubs” in Brooklyn. Rarely are these outfits exposed as nonviable components of local leadership, and when they are it seems to matter little. Those who have a detailed understanding of the inner workings, tips, and tricks of a Board of Elections system needs to be understood by the ordinary person in much greater detail.
Congress Member for Life
There are nineteen political clubs in Brooklyn that attempt to decide what issues candidates can speak to with credibility. For the candidate, they will examine records of accomplishment of their opponent and coach on the hot buttons of the day (i.e., health care costs, immigration, DACA).
The political clubs and their candidates are the up-from-the-grassroots owners of a process that makes the top-down discussion of congress members, senators, and judges come alive as constitutional actors. It is in these settings where ordinary people determine who runs and how. The analysis continues by district and office from local to federal that allows participants to compare incumbents to a challenger. But why are incumbents 98% successful in defeating possible challengers. Why is AOC the outlier? The answer is made obvious below. Review with the knowledge that there are over 300,000 registered voters in this CD9! The focus of our analysis is on the one percent. Ironic.
Why did the founders make representatives every two years if we get them for life? I have a “legacy” representative in Congress with a “D” rating. So The Report supported an alternative candidate (Adem). His candidacy sought the office for two congressional election cycles. He almost won the first time, got the “club” attention, and got crushed the second time. Is an incumbent representative the best option of the clubs? Yes. Why then do primary elections become chock full of opposing candidates. Does it seem obvious that diluting the field with multiple unknowns is used to assure the status quo?
Why Does the Democratic Party Sustain Incumbency as a Priority? Is the System Broken? JUNE Primary 2018 and 2020 – In Brooklyn, a Primary Win is a Win in November.
Democratic Primary June 2018: Fundraising efforts increased to get out the vote after this close
Four Candidates Assures Incumbency
100.00% of precincts reporting (532?/?532) (source)
Once the choice of candidates for a political office or a judicial appointment is complete and aimed at the next election cycle, the value of local issues in the form of votes is exposed. An incumbency win is therefore easily recognized as a big money win on the issues and far less so on the issues affecting people’s lives. What do you think about 50% of every dollar you pay in federal taxes is paid to the military people, but the medical and science people have to fight for scraps in the battle for the other half? Are the big-money interests dangerous? Are they looking out for you?
A candidate does not have to be rich to be a leader, but improving the grassroots knowledge of the problems of wealth, power and government is a starting point of high value on every question related to the quality of public life. The cash from a PAC and other significant funding sources compare directly with vote capture and the percentage of contribution from ordinary citizens and public matching remains a token.
The capacity of civic engagement to get results is being pushed toward, well-known as well as unexpected breaking points. The big paying interests only have one interest in mind — to keep the government as a predictable entity, not an honest one, or fair or even one that cares. With this level of power, it is not possible to see a difference between the availability of cake and day-old bread. That is the terror of it.
Robert Venturi once observed Las Vegas as the only uniquely American expression of architecture. No one ever says it is a product of thoughtful planning. In 2006, when MGM Mirage and partners decided to build City Center, Las Vegas, NV, New York news aptly described it as an entertainment-based retail project. A comparison with an older effort confirms why metaphor-desperate architecture critics get super busy; however, I think lousy planning is the more useful element to engage. Enter stage left, Lincoln Square, Center, and Circle.
A viewpoint for examining the similarities and differences from one other kind of uniqueness can be useful. America is not built on ancient traditions, universal religion, ethnicity, or race; our founders believed they could be built on ideals. The principles of human dignity are given the highest value. Without the rigorous implementation of this core value, community development tends to fail this purpose. The question is not if the development practice in Lincoln Square, NYC, and City Center, Las Vegas was racist. The question is, how much racism is in play?
These two real estate investments are instructive of American urban development. They stand fifty years apart, but it might as well be five centuries regarding their exposure to values. Robert Moses broke ground on the Lincoln Center project with President Eisenhower. The biography of both patriarchs confirms a systemic racism component. Both believed Black people should be treated equally but did not think they were equal, and many of the policies and actions of both remain as proof.
Lincoln Square is an example of racialized architecture rationalized in New York City because the backdoor (parking/shipping) of Lincoln Center is Amsterdam Avenue adjacent to public housing. The entry plaza logically favored the Broadway/Columbus intersection. This was a reasonable architectural decision for many reasons. However, one reason rarely, if ever mentioned, is that architecture as a profession has no design solution for racism. They are subservient; the racism of their clients is included. The profession received clear notice of this problem in 1968 at their 100th convention (here).
Lincoln Center’s development is not as apparent as the proliferation of Confederate monuments from 1900 to through the 1920s, which continues through the 1950s. Lincoln Center did not support segregation with intimidation. On the other hand, it did support rules of law ito demolish a mostly Black neighborhood in the name of high-culture.
The Civil Rights Movement pushes back, and Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Park is now Emancipation Park. A record of the effort to remove intimidating monuments is kept by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). On the other hand, the high culture of Lincoln Center uses the grade sheet of their traditions. They seek to convert participants into high arts as their earnest effort to confront racism and claim success in programmatic terms.
Lincoln Center represents issues that architectural design or sculpted monuments cannot handle. Its creation was born of the slum clearance, race intimidation movement known as Urban Renewal. It developed through the redlined 50s and into the late 60s in NYC. The civil rights response pushes back but is compelled to accept reconciliation measures. Reconciliation also occurs in the offerings of special district law in 1969. The Lincoln Square District’s roots can point a bit remarkably to its transformation. It led to comprehensive inclusionary zoning laws, albeit fifty years later.
As a renewal program, the special district design attacked the southern diaspora of poverty into the North with displacement strategies. As for tactics, restitution-like compromises such as the promise of affordable housing and well-funded ‘top-down” cultural services can be agreeable goals to the “fighters” and the losses, grave as they may be, deemed acceptable.
Understanding these programs’ rectitude provides the added depth needed to understand the term “systemic” in race relations and economic change. The displacement practice, once quoted to me once as, “you are free, just not here, because you can’t afford it,” continues to this day and well examined in a report from the University of Pennsylvania’s City Planning program (here). Displacement is a percentage game, and if human dignity was the measure, the players on both sides are losing. Penn’s work is an excellent update of Chester Hartman’s book, “Displacement: How to Fight It,” developed by Dennis Keating and Richard LeGates (1981). The truth in both publications, now decades apart, is the displacement process has only changed on the margins. Therein lies the terror of it all.
A small portion of New York City (Map: CT 145) covers an area of eight typical city blocks just west of Central Park. It had a 2000 population of 4,500 people living in 2,900 housing units that sustains a low vacancy rate of about 2%. The land area is 60 acres to yield a residential density of 48,000 people per square mile. (Facts to be updated following 2020 Census – see below.)
The area includes the Fordham University Law School, and it is just south of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Juilliard School, and a dozen other cultural miracles. It is not just a neighborhood composed of multiple-story apartment buildings; it is a destination experience established by cultural centers, the splendor of Central Park’s open space, and the Time Warner 12-story shopping “mall” without the standing auto-surround. The daytime population density can be doubled with ease and well supported by a transit system at this location that can deliver 5,000 people per hour, 24/7/365.
The public goal (1969) of the Special Lincoln Square District is to enhance the area as an international center for the performing arts. To achieve this goal, urban design along Broadway will follow street line rules. Arcades for interior urban-room retail and service facilities provide a compromise for regulation and limits on street-level uses. Supply-side development bonuses are through special permits that offer added square footage for housing rented at lower (but not low) rents governed by Inclusionary Housing R10. and subway improvements. The demand side bets on good shows, a friendly neighborhood, and a sincere hope that the NYC mass transit services do not collapse.
Lincoln Center is a life-long learning opportunity in community development. Despite a long history of cultural engagement efforts as compensation for a vast mid-50s clearance of thousands of families, a tabula rasa planning strategy, and elements such as the fortress edge at Amsterdam Avenue, the entire project remains an unfulfilled story of transitional urban power. Its future continues to be written for the success it still might get, not by crossing Amsterdam, but in recognizing how well the social fabric of this part of Manhattan is willing to attack its drift into a binary culture and ignore new opportunities that offer exceptional new levels of depth.
The comparison with another entertainment-retail center for the high-spend culture has America written all over it. It is instructive of the “binary problem” and a warning of competing solely for the high-end. The City Center was a five-year design and build “hit”, not unlike graffiti, but way neat and well worth the time exploring innovations.
The $9+ Billion Las Vegas City Center (left to right): KPF’s Mandarin Hotel, (392) Libeskind, and Rockwell’s Crystal’s premium goods mall, Pelli’s Aria, (4,000) Helmut Jahn’s Veer, (335) Foster’s ill-fated Harmon. (demolition was in 2015) Also in the City Center, Rafael Viñoly Vara hotel and residences (1,495). A “who’s who” of architect high-end destination creation. The City Center project broke ground in 2006, and despite significant construction difficulties, including nine deaths in sixteen months, the new skyline hit the press in late 2009. The plan for this massive development was based on speed regardless of the human cost and a systemic “rent-comes-first” problem.
The entire project is symbolized by the demolition of Foster’s Harmon hotel, but like New York City’s development projects, the greater effort survived the 2008 recession. In Las Vegas, all bets are all on the black. Undeterred, billions spent in building the City Center out of nothing that can be remembered occurred even though Las Vegas sits amidst the aridest desert on Earth. Most of the 2.6 million residents trust in the spin on Lake Mead as shrinking (or not), rejecting any notion of a prolonged era of despair due to the rains of 2016/17.
The fresh knowledge of anguish from the City Center project became available when the Las Vegas Sun received a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the causes of construction deaths and lax regulatory assessments. The tragedy of a worker’s family is described (here). You can read all of the stories by Las Vegas Sun for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service (here). One of them points to NYC’s positive response to construction safety. Please read the work of Alexandra Berzon of the Sun who explored the pace, fear, and death, and terror that accompanied the creation of City Center before taking in the five minutes on the spin on the final product in the following presentation.
All of Las Vegas began as a city of no-rules sprawl. The property taken didn’t make the news. It produced thousands of hotel and residential condo units spread through multiple structures on a 67-acre site. The Vara overlaps residence floors with a 1,500-room hotel. Regular housing is included in the Mandarin Oriental and a 37-floor twin tower. The housing and related residential accommodations combine a complex of hotels, shops, and gambling entertainment. Whether the housing is composed of permanent residents or time-shared ‘hotel-condo participants is of small consequence. The community with this density can resolve the service implications with reasonable ease based on density. That leaves median income and whether racial and gender disparities are becoming dispositive.
Developing business models on the provision of unique destination-retail cultures (high or low) are coupled with a base of rental units, permanent, and condo-hotel housing. Development of this kind suggests the need for a comparison built on the demography of a place, before, during, and after. Such a comparison could yield measures by which the fast “time is money” impact of capital project disruptions that often lead to forced and economic displacement also provide proof of balance. There would be sufficient generational investment for those found in the wake of this harm that will never occur to that household again. It would be a guarantee that the cycle of poverty ends with an emphasis on every child regardless of the cost.
The resident population of Las Vegas will be close to three million people in 2020, and before the 2020 pandemic, this city had 42.52 million visitors in 2019. There are just two “isms” that describe gambling in Vegas, “tourism” and “capitalism.”
The increased competition for gamblers as entertainment-based retail comes clear in a joke you would not hear at City Center. “What is the difference between an online casino and a live casino? – When you lose online and cry, no one will laugh at you.” The enclosures of the modern casino encourage over-confidence, leading to the illusion of security. Our brains like this as a sense of pleasure and contributes to the idea that an educated guess can be precise. Illusions of control also negate outcomes of chance into more extreme emotions, such as a “near win” means getting close to one.
To the visitor, the core illusion is gambling is a personal decision not influenced by the environment or knowledge of “the odds.” Both support and encourage the fantasy of winning and a sense of superiority despite a uniform failure (not-wining) rate. This phenomenon is well understood; however, the public policy allows gambling while discouraging it as a dangerous, potentially addictive practice.
A growing proportion of society participates in gambling. The economic impact occurs in every public jurisdiction. It is not treated as a preventable problem, but a percentage of the population issue, leaving it to post-trauma “hot-lines” to resolve. Proof of a high-quality education system will occur when the “casino” as a land-use disappears or when no one other than the fabled 1% gamble.
Every resident, business, and neighborhood in the nation has a census tract. The Bureau of the Census has made significant improvements in providing online access to data for ordinary people. There are thousands of tables on who we are as a nation, city, state, county. The census tract is the “where” of this data. Knowing the actual condition of our lives yields an assessment of fitness and reasons for action based on comparisons. The first and most important bit of that knowledge is to know that the patriarchy that beats society into submission cannot be used to dismantle its house. One must know how the house got there in the first place.
The creation of the structures you enter to live, work, shop, or play must be safe structures. To assure these objectives, the regulations governing land use and the practice of architecture, engineering, and construction are strict. When errors are discoverer and repair is impossible, the building comes down, as in Foster’s building in Las Vegas. The structures also have social and economic impacts, but these products are not well regulated or measured. The ideals of the American Constitution demand fair treatment measures under the law, fair and just compensation and unfettered access to quality education, and a “we the people” promise of fairness in the pursuit of happiness.
Following, you will find a glimpse of the 2010 data on two U.S. Census tracts illustrated in the description of these two locations. This glimpse will await the final publication of the 2020 Census. Both locations are products of a largely racist power structure focused solely on the flow of capital as exhibited by the value of the real estate. The fulfillment of America’s constitutional ideals is deemed irrelevant or, at best, secondary to that flow of capital. Ironically, improving the flow of capital is touted as the best remedy to whatever set of problems a social justice agenda might present. Therefore, the quality of life becomes a material consequence of profit. Rightly so, until a tipping point occurs when the measure of quality lowers until it is only viewed as the ability to subsist.
Population, Sex, and Race
Census Tract 145 Manhattan (2018 estimates) has a total population of 5,960. It is 64.4% White, Non-Hispanic, and 38% of the population 15 years and older have never married. Census Tract 68 Las Vegas (2018 estimates) has a total population of 5,077. The White, Non-Hispanic population is 23.2%, and 45% of the population 15 years and older have never married.
Where are the physical places for public decision-making that assure the right to a personal view and the power to express them freely on all matters? If you can answer that question and make a list, know they are opportunities. If you don’t, find out where they are now vs. where they will be needed.
The places to create a system change are disappearing into globalized digital fragments. In the former old range, growth moves outwardly, from the privacy of the bedroom to places where you cannot scream words like fire and larger venues where rights of passage allow you to be heard. There are places where you can yell as loud as possible, and no one would listen to you, whether it is a canyon’s echo or in the din of a crowd.
System change requires these places. If a small group like “a band” learning to play in a garage eventually fills a stadium with thousands of ticket buyers, that is a system change. It is organized by a defined set of communication tools and the talent to create music that people would purchase. Communications may be written as a narrative or spoken, become music, fine art, or any of a thousand mediums of choice. There it is; communication tools are ubiquitous. Therefore, how do you find people who seek, receive, and impart information and ideas in a helpful way other than selling tickets? You know this as an experience of membership, from classroom to university, congress member to Congress, but what if you want to get that metaphorical band together or back from where it was lost? Or what if there is no right of passage, recognized path, or place you can name or even locate? What can you do?
What if the revolution came, and you missed it, lost the poster, didn’t pay attention, or only listened to minds that hate? The communication tools for placeless participation are new, and there is a struggle to use them well. Nevertheless, the new devices offer an evasion of experience that absorbs the placeless like a sponge.
The quality of space is its climate. Care is taken to ensure sound, temperature, and color do not assault and that gatherings are not disrupted. People can exchange views, trade ideas, or data and negotiate over intent, desired results, and expectations. Change occurs in the act of face-to-face, in a place structure for participation, but it is not a system change. That requires an open exchange between the known and unknown.
Kevin Lynch, in “A Theory of Good City Form” (1960), describes five elements for “legibility” in the urban or suburban experience of a place that can be adapted to the placeness of digital communications. We organize our ‘mental maps’ into elements that yield our physical relationship to sites. The way Lynch broke it down remains widely regarded as a good intellectual and graphic notation tool for communicating the abstractions of urban places and structures.
In” Image of the City,” Lynch isolates several categories of form-generation growing out of urban experience to measure growth and development: vitality, sense, fit, access, control, and two significant criteria – efficiency and justice. Despite a generation of ‘interpreters,’ every element of Lynch’s analysis remains valid, yet it is without the power to implement. However, it is now possible to achieve in the virtual space, and anyone can do it because everyone can have a role in implementation.
The ratio of work:
When inputs predict desired output, efficiency becomes measurable, but the former lose value unless an impartial application of conformity to what is right. Lynch points out that two primary criteria (efficiency and justice) are aspects of each spatial criterion described below. In each case, one must ask, “what is the cost in terms of anything else we would choose to value, in achieving a degree of vitality, sense, fit, access, and control?
As for the performance dimensions of a human settlement, the five criteria map onto ecological parameters for community survival. They may be employed in designing an urban place, an arboretum, or an aquarium. It is ecologically reasonable to assert that if we destroy a plant or animal’s performance dimensions, we tend to kill the organism. If plants and animals have value only in their use to people, then any non-conversion of land must consider these values lost. The value of new houses or shopping centers is greater than the opportunity forgone. If plants and animals have an intrinsic value, then some extra-market systems must arise to embrace new values. Here is an idea that has been with the creators of urban environments, such as Lynch, for decades, yet it has not developed.
Vitality is the experience of energy and strength. The intellect is developed with the injection of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. The relationships established in a place based on vitality and sense produce an understanding of a fit conditioned by access and control. These remaining two elements suggest access in a variety of layers or portals in which the rights of entry are established. The overall effect of vitality, sense, fit, and access reveals a quality of control, or the capacity to assure the recurrence of events, products, or processes. The purpose of understanding these elements is to recognize and expose their failures.
With these seven elements well-considered, the creation of a place in which people can change the rules of access and challenge control is possible. The difficulty of entering the placeless environments offered through digital communications is realizing and interpreting these elements without the physical functions that are proved in Lynch’s urban analysis. The design and development of online participation platforms are developing rapidly, as in every virtual environment, nothing is impossible. First, a brief description of the physical aspects that facilitate civic participation.
The use of passageways, conduits, and tubes links one destination to the next. These objectives will have a boundary or frame confirmed by a transition and experience of difference. Within these destinations, three central components will be found. A joining of assets linked to pathways passes through edges to form nodes that may become districts or regions defined by a constituency placing value on its uses. Each may have a range of functions, such as a university campus or a shopping district. These places have experiences, familiar sights, signs, and monuments as markers.
Participation in public affairs and friendly discourse is nonlinear when it is within the limits of a few lives, but its content tends to fold into the layers of a more extensive cultural process involving many lives. These creative cultures shape a person’s individual capacity to expose similar experiences in comparable periods with the different perceptions of others.
In 1975, I became friends with an artist, pictured here, and we raised some money to paint murals. He was very fond of his “riders” and drew them everywhere. He painted them because he wanted people to see and protect them. It would not be until the turn of the century that a far more powerful communication tool would be used to make a change. In 1977, American Youth Hostels, with help from Citibank, organized the five borough bike tour, and now over 30,000 people [? population of Majuro, the capital city of Marshall Islands] [? population of Oranjestad, the capital city of Aruba] are on a city tour to raise funds to support cycling. It allowed people to see their city in a new way. In the 90s, I worked with architects and planners as community advocates called design centers. The Pittsburg, PA design center also wanted to raise funds and encourage people to recognize one another with a bike route. A project known as Pedal Pittsburgh (now PedalPGH) was born, and it was verified to be a robust exchange that crossed through the old race and ethnic lines, and people developed a new and joyful view of the steel city. Closing the streets for a bike tour once or twice a year is not enough it was a problem.
Places for serving a specific interest, such as city cycling, vary, but as the following example will illustrate, Pittsburg, New York City, and cities all over the world have thousands of cyclists who are in danger. They need a right to the road among automobiles. From the seventies through 2000, a new power was discovered. Each rider’s experience and the purpose of riding could be shared in a virtual space to expose one truth – a bike trip in NYC (or any city) should not be a life and broken bones experience or a flirt with death.
At this point (2004), a highly motivated communication effort steadily built an ability to air this grievance with many voices via “text” and a blog. When challenged for their power by the police authority, it became necessary to sustain “critical mass” demonstrations until negotiations were re-established more seriously and a system change occurred that saved lives and safely replaced automobiles for many trips. It opened up new pathways, albeit mostly etched into the road with paint, but it also began to mark the way and the place for a variety of small multifunctional vehicles that could enrich the quality of life for all residents
February 2005, in the heat of battle, when the New York Police Department was bearing down on our once peaceful critical mass. Enormous precedence was being set. The police were trying to define what critical mass was and fit it into some logical explanation complete with leaders and organizations. This was happening, most likely to justify their actions of mass arrests five months earlier, just before the Republican National Convention came to NYC. I wanted to help define critical mass myself, or rather keep it undefined and make it be an ever-evolving, spontaneous unique experience for the individuals who participated. I wanted a way to personalize the experience through my own words and to connect with the amazing fact that this bike ride was happening on the same day in over 300 cities around the world.
Before examining the structure of system changes as facilitated by attacking a malfunction, it is essential to produce demonstrations that motivate the change agencies. I like Kevin Lynch’s observations, but they do not provide a pathway to civic participation, only the context. The acquisition of new power, even in this “safe biking” example, requires a better understanding of why “the police” had to be used to create the leverage for a reasonable change in public transportation policy.
Using passageways, conduits, and tubes to link one destination to another is a helpful metaphor. The places where you live, learn, and work as a network of physical destinations now includes a new address. The old addresses have boundaries with transitions that express differences in experience. Within these destinations, there are four main components—a joining of assets linked to 1) pathways that pass through, 2) edges to form 3) nodes. A constituency values various uses and functions to create 4) districts. Within these places, familiar sights, signs, and monuments function as 5) landmarks.
Agency of Change
The new address is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol (IP) for communication. Your home/work and IP address serve similar functions. At home and work, you are part of a host network with known physical boundaries and edges with location addressing. The difference is an interface identification protocol (IPv4 and IPv6) increases communication access to every place in the world. The path is for lightspeed travel, and the edge, as described by Kevin Lynch, is gone. Well almost.
The edges that Lynch spoke of would mark a noticeable change in the environment as defined by a coastline or river or more subtly in transitions from a shack in the woods, to lonely single-family buildings, to brownstone rowhouses and tall, skyscraping multiple-use structures. The edges formed by IP addresses, on the other hand, build more keenly on economic circumstances and preferences in communication styles with the documentation of preferences and purposes.
Estimates of nearly two billion websites include one person or family network to sites that serve millions of people daily, such as Amazon, Wikipedia, or Google. Also, some three billion people use the internet through several social media accounts. In this sense, participation along known paths and observed edges in a physical world have local launch pads in a physical place and a community that requires different observation of edge transformations. Connecting these two worlds with comparable pathways of participation requires a better understanding. Using a common language will help define the involvement choices that can improve control of both worlds.
The viewpoint for this observation of participation begins with two choices. A website owned by a person or company is an authoritative launchpad that controls the subject matter. The services of a social media account are considerable, but the pages are not yours. The content is removable by others, and it can be altered and monitored—the sale of user and usage statistics knowingly or unknowingly is routine. A personal or business website is the focal point for participation in other mediums, but it controls its content. Both choices will reflect expressions based on physical experiences. Both are directly affected by the quality of the place they speak. One is easily manipulated The first edge defines this choice of use, and it determines how the human relationship aspects of involvement in a community develop.
You live in the world on the left, but from a communications point of view, you understand that world the way Lynch produced “images” of the city on the right. The online communications medium of the internet is not as complicated as the pathways and edges that define movements involving home, family, work, neighbors, friendships, and life in search of social and economic well-being. Nevertheless, the way Kevin Lynch adds nodes, districts, and landmarks to the urban arc of a life is super helpful. Imagine the city on the right represent physical locations and constituencies with an interest in improving a specific quality of life, such as being able to use a human-powered vehicle for every trip with a substantial guarantee of safety. Now imagine the power to connect with every person in that limited environment that wants the same thing.
When I understand my IP address, the questions are in what nodes am I apart, what kind of districts do they form, and what are the landmarks (attractions) of each. Using these three terms can reduce the jargon that describes the technical function of your phone or other computers.
In 1960, when Lynch wrote his first book, a node was a concentration of some characteristic at the strategic focal point into which a participant enters. In Lynch’s case, those points were identified and defined using a series of Boston streets (image above). Thus, Lynch demonstrates how the psychology of cognitive mapping helps understand the city in the context of regional planning, urban architecture, and design.
Edward Tolman (1948) wrote “Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men” to describe navigating an environment that uses spatial knowledge to make choices. In the early 70s, I traveled to Kentucky by car on a research project with a friend, a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and Bryant, an African-American. After arriving, we had a choice when told that sensitivity levels were a little “touchy” and to avoid a stretch of state highway. I assumed that “sensitivity” was White, but I learned Bryant thought it was Black weeks later. We laughed.
Between 1970 and 2020, it is the lightspeed that changes everything. Traveling with an IP address has made cognitive mapping choices very different. We create mental images of a place based on our personal experience or as given to us by others. At any moment, IP travel offers a series of narratives, videos, training programs, and product offers as choices. However, there are, as yet, very few resources to further your understanding of what your IP means.
Adding Lynch’s knowledge of the urban form helps comprehend a unique IP self or social media membership. In the lightspeed world, distinguishing between an IP that identifies you in a dense local district produces attractions offering thousands of new types of engagement you can acquire by walking. An entirely new and rapidly developing business model aims to know the fine grain of who you are in a region the size of Boston or the Northeast, but do you know who you are in that world concerning the one you walk in?
Finally, a set of landmarks to which you are attracted form continuously. Examples are a specific data stream that meets a need or a planned set of experiences designed to build benchmarks that signify achievements. Regardless of the order provided, we should learn to perceive and understand the digital environment in the same way as the one we walk. Both pathways have the quality of a physical object, which gives it a high probability of evoking a larger image in which one path becomes vital because it is a decision point, but is it yours?
Multiple sizes and locations across these landscapes of common interest discovery have many successes and failures. The example given in this post briefly explains why you will find bicycle lanes on city streets throughout the country. The more difficult explorations for discovery are explored in posts on system change. The resurgence of the movement for civil rights or the termination of racism has complex sets of partial success and qualified failure. The definition of a growing list of malfunctions exhibits the rise of urgency regarding the course of human history. Three spatial forms describe how the engagement of participants leaves little room for reciprocity in teaching and learning about community change. These are the well-known times when a group is 1) manipulated, 2) called an exhibit, or 3) treated as tokens.
Those who administer an exit poll during an election, consumer market, or political opinion survey expect benefits. The product of their analysis of the data gathered provides an idea of what the immediate future holds. Identifying an unmet demand in the market for goods or services or taking a sample of a decision already made by a large group predicts outcomes.
We are all familiar with election night exit polls. There is nothing grievously wrong with these forms of participation, but the opportunity for redress on the part of those used for these purposes is limited. It is participation without balance. The manipulation occurs in highly localized places such as a shopping district or a street outside a voting place. Surveys or other activities that offer little understanding of purpose are acceptable to people. They enjoy sharing their thoughts in person, on the phone, or online and do not expect the knowledge gained by others is shared with them at some future date. However, there is a line, and people will sense a lack of fairness when crossed. Whether they step or stumble across this line, numerous acts of betrayal are possible. Whether deliberate or unintentional, this is a significant responsibility in the practice of a community’s participation.
Perhaps you engage people (especially students) in community projects, a political cause, a demonstration with a few placards for a march, or an event such as an awards ceremony. Here, the quality of participation is a lesson in how appropriate actions acquire benefits. Creating involvement in addressing a problem with public displays of concern, such as a brief march, will involve people. People are happy to purchase a ribbon and decorate themselves to symbolize identification with a cause. Still, they lack effectiveness beyond a show of power, an exhibition of solidarity, or the appearance of consensus.
Participation occurs in the form of judgment about a problem to make it pre-extant. For example, you are raising money or distributing position leaflets. Also, to get a child’s participation by saying, “you are a poor reader because you just don’t read.” is a judgment different offering a more attractive prescription by saying, “let’s find some things we are interested in reading. About?” A similar example, “you are within the law, but you are immoral,” is considerably different from working hard to see challenges within a larger ethical framework. Producing acts of uniformity for a cause works. The downside is that participation in socially diverse settings weakens when there are various issues to define and resolve.
Becoming engrossed in complex community development issues such as human rights, sustainability, basic safety, housing, and education affects many people in different ways in all urban landscapes. Presenting options that deal with concerns in these settings that direct residents to their rights and responsibilities can become “tokens.” Individual leaders may understand an issue well enough to stand up and say, “We have the answer, follow us,” and do so with all the persuasive powers at their command. While this might be true, it precludes participation and the opportunity for others to engage the problem directly and define it for themselves. We may be quite willing to follow, but this weakens the chance to experience negotiation power regarding immediate and possibly, future actions. Participation based on the information given and little else inhibits the development of new ideas and data.
Participation as a “done deal” is reasonable; its weakness is the myth of the “now or never” demand. Its strength is in the implied rage built into “no justice, no peace” because it is not a threat. It is a prediction. What must be recognized is how the hopelessness that wells up when “Black Lives Matter” is countered with the “all lives” statement. The latter is a statement of willing ignorance or a poor understanding of history. The experience of no change, whether day-to-day or by generation, invokes the requirement for improvements in the public’s understanding of social change. It is painful to recognize differing perceptions of the same experience in a time and place as having validity. How people interpret an incident may be correct or incorrect but always correct. There are many reasons for this, but there are two I like best. First, it is well proven that we fill in visual data (color, images, light, faces) in the rush or stream of events before us, and second, doubting the correctness of our senses is considered a step toward madness. It is not merely sustaining the discipline to look both ways.
Newer forms of active participation produce leadership structures willing to give up predetermined conclusions and “re-enter” the problem from the beginning with participants in a continuous flow. Integral to the growth of democratic systems is knowing how other highly informed participants can broaden their perception of what is needed. What is the use of someone “knowing the way” when the capacity to follow will not grow or modify in the process?
It is impossible to say a better way is possible when none can be exhibited with validity. Rage and hopelessness are the sisters of no change. This is where advanced communication systems focused on local engagement and participation can bring a form of experience that can effectively eliminate the despondency of our times.
Toward More Effective Participation
At this point, it is appropriate to bring up “mobilization.” Being organized can come from the willing participation in surveys without ever knowing the results, participating as an exhibit of an issue, or being treated as a token for a cause in a march. It is OK. We don’t mind answering questions or walking in a protest carrying a sign or wearing a ribbon. We are a society based on assembly. We share classrooms to learn, churches for prayer and offices for work, arenas for games, and so on. This is apparent; society has valuable things to trade and information to deliver.
Some gatherings are regime–originated, others purely voluntary. As institutions, they may help us choose what we need to know. We participate in protecting what we have. But, on the other hand, when we have nothing or the appearance of nothing compared to others, participation seems to have a very high cost and little evidence of immediate, exchangeable value. Why?
For the most part, we freely allow ourselves to be part of the three most common forms of civic participation described above. The danger is not knowing that your knowledge is among the multiple types available. For example, the quality of a physical location experience is a product of active design and drawn from an original consultation form. The rows of chairs in a school or line of pews in a church is a design asking people to listen and accept membership. At some point, people were asked to create an assembly space. The new pathways described below are unnerving. As the process begins, participants are without clear, concrete objectives and a social distancing world. It is, by its nature, ambiguous. Luckily, these periods of ambiguity have the potential to be the most highly creative.
Overall, the forms described above have one overall acronym – DAD (decide, announce, and defend), and it is produced in fun urban terms such as a LULU (aka, a locally undesirable land uses). One nationally active community organizing coalition describes the forms of participation described above as the BOHICA (“bo-hee-ca”) problem. Or “bend over, here it comes again,” suggesting these forms of assistance might as well be a swift kick in the pants. Another described it as a beautiful path to achieve “maximum feasible misunderstanding” to play with the phrase “maximum feasible citizen participation” regarding impacts.
Unlike a metaphor, the winding is literal and applicable as an alternative. A winding can refer to rivers and roads, even clockmaking. When being manipulated, shown for a cause, or asked to follow without the opportunity to question, the mind-shaping type has visceral, potentially violent consequences.
Testing participants’ breaking and balance skills occur with a nonlinear injection of possibilities. The desire for speed is disrupted but can be replaced with a similar emotion – discovering how to absorb different preferences and perceptions in the wind of everyday experiences. Help in assessing risk/reward conditions builds energy people can share. A review and exploration of five winding experiences suggest new engagement strategies. The first presents two forms of consultation – assigned and composed, that outline resource packaging for participant-initiated projects. The next three describe member command structures by delegation systems, then data sharing methods, and the third introduces various control structures.
Someone or some group has gotten people’s attention, and they assemble. A list of possible “projects” are offered that define and solve problems. A talk begins, and the people question the plans. We confront the quality of participation every day. We understand and accept most of them, whether getting signatures for a candidate, selling cookies for the scouts, or even when stuck in traffic on a commute. When something new is presented, the “projects” tend to define and solve problems in the same breath – elect a representative, and raise money for the scouts. When this kind of expectation fills a meeting place, ask and answer these accountability questions.
Who decided to seek public involvement, and how is it planned?
How is the involvement of people determined?
What measures are used to evaluate contributions to the program and projects proposed?
The discussion is guided by asking process questions such as:
With the knowledge that accountability and a clear process will remain in constant review, the work required to establish active project-to-project participation rests when the imagined events are activated. Reciprocal levels may be hard to find, but they often represent a freely borne membership that “self-assigns” the consultation process.
When will the experience, thoughts, and energy of people shape or alter these projects?
How will this help resolve the problems we have just described?
How will this help us to accept, reject, reframe, and define the opportunities offered?”
Without a doubt, an emotional coil forms to represent the impossibilities. Some will call it the camel’s nose, others – the elephant. Whatever people want to call it, the rise of several small groups will begin to examine all sides of the thing. Encouraging self-assignment through a consultation process gives the go-ahead to poke and prod it just enough to discover the actions available to kill the potential for apathy.
Say a group of trial lawyers want to change the behavior of district attorneys in arraignment proceedings. A group forms, and they get the DAD experience. A series of lawsuits or formal complaints report a failure in fulfilling rights guaranteed to citizens. In these matters, the court does not enhance the quality of life nor judge its inadequacy.
Those who have control will make turns on or off the road. They have selected a whole series of possible projects as part of a planning-to-act process. It helps to determine mutual accord and the consent needed to move on down the road.
Completing a fair summary of newly discovered information from recent events reveals the probability of moving too quickly. The process stops because of sweeping generalizations, placation, or other feelings that slide a crisis. The lack of human resources, skill, and cash, you name it. To help control the speed of participation, I recommend participant leaders develop the means to introduce the following consultations:
Members generate the program plan in the selection of project activities. (list, prioritize)
Resolve mistrust or confusion arising from the powerholders’ release of power.
Encourage access to independent technical resources to those implementing projects.
Compose groups implementing projects to define potential programs.
Explore the issues and problems raised with adequate tools. (testing, skill assessments)
Ask participants to delegate the responsibility in summation to a representative body.
Summation involves proof of intensely undistracted listening. It requires a reading of non-verbal languages and the ability to exhibit the intelligence inherent to a collective enterprise. Top among them is to have a name for the various collaborations discovered to the time used.
For example, consider forming a “scouting team” to look further up the road to report views as a “research group” asked to examine the past by interviewing participants in a similar effort about their satisfaction and achievements. Thousands of examples of “never doubt” groups are possible. The operation composed consultation is to sustain interest in discovering new resources applicable to all and, in doing so, broaden and composition of recent conferences. The prevailing summary statement should prove that “no one is as smart as all of us.”
With a few places to go to achieve identified ends, it becomes possible to decide how to get there – to choose a means. The power to maneuver, bargain, and negotiate also becomes distributable. In many ways, a good partnership plays in a low-risk trial and error effort. The game can be solemn among adults, but once skill development is well exercised – it’s usually called fun.
The idea of a partnership contains many actions. They form to provide advice and consent opportunities, protect, assist, reject, or abandon an effort. For example, once a participatory project begins with young people, the partnership should be intelligent and skilled enough not to interfere with or over-direct the play as if they were surrogates. The very roots of our learning abilities begin with games, followed by reflection with adults on their meaning. The reverse is equally possible.
Adults tend to respond poorly to the initiatives of the young because it involves that transition from “I decide” to “you choose.” These changes shape the “rites of passage,” for which many benchmarks, portals, and passageways exist. One of the poorest of these “portals” is as follows: “as a child, you play. When you become an adult, you work.” Non-interactive media such as TV, film, and reading dominate the game’s concept.
It isn’t the absence of the desire to be helpful in community affairs for both young and old. Instead, it is more likely to lack leadership in forming participant-initiated partnerships that demand interactive forms of learning and experience. Here are some questions to use in building and supporting these organizations:
Do the projects serve the interests and needs of individuals in small groups?
Are these various designs recognized as part of a whole?
Are quantified goals and objectives written about these projects?
Is there a feeling of strategic accomplishment in meeting goals and objectives?
Have issues of policy and priority been discussed?
Are sufficient resources available to accomplish the projects envisioned?
What is the evaluation practice of projects undertaken as part of the plan?
The winding road metaphor begins to open up exhilarating views of the world when answers to these questions come with ease. If unanswered, the participants do not have a vision of the future and do not know where they are going. The phrase, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” in my experience, was restated best by Yogi Berra when he told us to be careful, “if we don’t know where we are going because we might not get there.”
Planning what to do has been outlined. Participant initiatives reveal an ability to undertake decision-making and assume responsibility. Exposing this as an enhanced condition unfolds practical limits and prescribed periods. Decision-making power organizes participants into groups given individually selected but mutual learning needs or interests.
Leadership is often a thing “taken,” as if it were, in itself, power. On the other hand, effective leadership is given and taken in delegating and sharing decisions. This form is undoubtedly more complicated and often painful in its seemingly sluggish pace. The heart of knowledge is experience and reflection with other people. As the “winding road” speed will vary with every individual or group, we recognize how awareness (cognition) occurs at different rates.
Delegated and Shared Decisions
Delegation systems acknowledge that no one person or group has absolute control. We face degrees of delegation to ourselves (to-do lists) that even guarantee the capacity to make decisions for others to do. We also learn to negotiate the conditions that allow “outsiders” to change the list if the resources exist to respond to a delegation and delegate.
There is a valuable image of a “mountaintop” on the winding road regarding decision-making. Everyone can get there by seeing it, but not all simultaneously or for the same reasons. The fact that it exists and is there establishes the means for a continuing relationship, consistently defined between task groups to get us all there in one or more of its many forms.
The capacity to distribute resources produces a trading and bartering environment if the intent is to achieve mutual benefits. Many participant perspectives involving a series of reasonably well-implemented projects create individuals and groups with the power to contract for resource exchanges from the “outside” or “inside.” The participants “know what they need to know” and control the process of gaining this information. The dialogue moves from “just tell us what to do, or know” to decisions about the forms of mutual assistance available to discover what needs to be done and learned.
At this point, there are drawbacks, like potholes than boulders, when a group stumbles on a task or project. The esprit de corps climate can foster win-lose confrontations instead of win-win conclusions. The result will be participants who are or feel “left out” of the process. Competitive sport is an excellent example of this drawback. It has a dominant win-lose component of real value. Still, the often-neglected win-win conclusion is a broadly dedicated group of participants engaged in applying physical skills and necessary teamwork. Remaining focused on these win-win objectives is essential.
All organizations run from the top down, but those closest to the source of information give power from the bottom if there is a way to bubble up. The freedom of those at the top can cause forgetfulness about the importance of stopping to look around. Delegating from the top to all participants is a power function to respond to demand from the bottom. This top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top data flow describes an organization’s capacity to achieve goals. Structured training experiences illustrate the importance of these types of events in real-life experiences.
Controlling “We Decide”
Control systems also recognize that organizations can establish definitive delegation power. As a result, control systems can have considerable influence over human conduct. Ask anyone with experience with New York City’s alternate side of the street parking regulations. While this example involves financial penalties for nonparticipation, active control systems are those fully embraced by community-wide value systems. After all, the New Yorker is experiencing alternate-side street cleaning as a commonly held community value.
A proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a community value, it implies modest differentiation between parenthood and the responsibilities of the community. Too often, we forget this includes the child. The exclusion of children as full participants is frequently due to the research styles of social, psychological, and even anthropological sciences limiting participation to the first three described above. For example, written “permission” for the involvement of parents in various events (being interviewed, field trips) is rarely asked of a child.
Under what conditions are people of any age allowed to say “no” or asked to “give permission,“ even as a child? There is a fundamental difference between going through the routine demands of participation and having accurate management control over outcomes. This point occurs in the path of life but recurs continually in the development of a community. Ultimately, a person or a community can control what it can make recur. For this reason, it is invalid to seek participation as an end in itself. More than any other force, involvement in the design of community activities is driven by the full and repetitive disclosure of values affirmed and expressed consistently and openly.
There have been eight parts of participation presented here. The first three describe the weakest and most conciliatory forms on the road to active service. They seek to “educate” or “treat” participants but leave little room for exchanging knowledge and experience in managing change. I used a winding road analogy to introduce activities that support tradeoffs and negotiation to define intent, the predictability of results, and the clarity of mutual benefits. Our sense of fairness is a consequence of participation in civic affairs; however, the more severe issue is that “hope” does not produce a future. A plan does.
The most efficient form of assistance engages task and project groups with experiences and resources to establish the capacity for delegating decision-making. The basis of managerial power every community can obtain in managing complex activities leads to a planned course of events. These games are intuitive within the community circle or geography of the neighborhood.
Research on issues is by the people concerned socially or economically by degree.
Research is a commitment to the individuals and their control of the analysis.
Research begins when a concrete problem is identified; and
We investigate the underlying causes of the pain selected so the members can address causes and solutions within a series of standard geographic reference points.
On the other hand, when specialists evaluate a point or problem, they carry additional influence and responsibility for the structure and direction of subsequent actions. For example, it is possible to alter people’s experiences without their advanced knowledge or insight regarding the nature of the change. More positively, the act of problem-solving itself establishes a self-empowerment process that encourages the provision and selection of self-enabling tools. In examining the availability and facility of these devices, the potential for a wrong is measured.
The motivation derived from defining and investigating problems is powerful. Detailed environmental analysis or local history produces scientific and humanistic questions. These issues engage geographic reference points that function from the local to the global and back again. Participation processes can embrace all people’s validity of their personal views, experience, knowledge, and foresight. Investing in the value of citizenship in this manner creates a condition where anyone at any moment can have critical insight essential to success.
Two essays that influenced this post are well-known Sherry R. Arnstein’s 1969 article in the AIP Journal, A Ladder of Citizen Participation. The second is by Roger A. Hart, in 1992, Innocenti Essays No. 4, “Children’s Participation – From tokenism to citizenship,” published by Unicef – United Nations Children’s Fund that added his interpretation. Finally, adding Kevin Lynch’s viewpoint of the urban structure in A Theory of Good City Form and Image of the City helped give the language of place to the participation process.
No doubt that urbanization has been a messy business. The rapid pace of development over the last couple of centuries has led directly to life-threatening conditions in a rush to mechanize every aspect of life. People were packed into camps to harvest forests of wood, mountains of granite, and every available mineral with trade value. For thousands of years, absolute command over the environment has been the central organizing force, from tribes roaming the prairies for fruits, grains, and meat to the construction of massive urban towers to sustain these endeavors across the globe. I am therefore comforted with the knowledge that it has only been fifty years since we noticed the mess and began efforts to make improvements.
Whenever infection has taken a life, it did it wherever people gather. In strict epidemiological terms, the more significant the diversity of people in a natural gathering area, the more likely the subtle protections of the human immune system will protect all. Concerning human medical history, this is relatively new data. Today, more people know the biology of DNA finds all humans to be identical. They are learning that physical differences are unique, beautiful, even exciting but fundamentally meaningless. In just the last few decades, this knowledge is filtering an entirely new value system into American culture and mostly in urban areas.
There is no stable connection between urban areas and coronavirus impacts. What is significant is how cities manage an infection with compact actions and resource preparedness. Dense cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, and Berlin have contained COVID-19 very well. Where greater preparedness is needed, suburban cities such as Detroit, Michigan, Macon, Georgia, and New Orleans, Louisiana, suffer right alongside dense areas like New York City with a similar impact.
In past attempts to solve urban social problems, the focus has been on eliminating inhumane physical conditions, it also had a tendency to place blame on people trapped in them. The effort to uproot the causes of their plight and poverty was intellectually criminal because good people did little on the larger issue. The failure to criticize the social and economic order as a principle reason continues to this day. It was fully expressed by the inhumanity of two world wars. The enormous successes of the nonviolent anti-war revolution for civil rights through the end of the 20th century reveal the courage of ordinary people. It also exposed an increasingly reactionary American culture due to the mere tinkerings from the top down on the edges of greatly needed reform.
Only recently, has relief from the view of urban life as unhealthy begun to fade. Hundreds of new and exhilarating urban places found expression in cities like New York throughout the country. For decades the history of urban success builds on the city’s capacity to identify and resolve the causes of potential disorder. These causes can be intense or subtle actions, but all are well-studied and tightly defined by deeply funded social science institutions and economists. Leadership and the flow of information in urban areas through interagency communication efforts allow course corrections and rapid policy changes in response to community demand. While many of the city’s top leaders have been taught hard lessons over the years, they remain well served by the deep structure of nonprofit city-wide and community-based institutions throughout the city. Without this structure, the distribution of essential resources during a city-wide emergency of any kind would be impossible to deploy.
The deep structure of urban governance produces trust in its diagnostic capacity for defining problems and then acting to get solutions. The city has taken its lessons in neighborhood economic disinvestment to create new kinds of banking institutions. Other social innovations help purge deterioration in rental housing before it spreads or in the case of the city’s public housing stock expose the failure of city and federal commitments in exquisite detail. Most recently, the city has focused on the depth of its communications resources to slow the spread of a pandemic with efficiency. Holes in its safety net are recognized with laser-like first responder precision and with this exposure repaired with the substantial institutional depth the city can muster.
Public institutions produce solutions to attacks on the quality of life by helping us to understand in highly sophisticated ways how and why we attack one another. The lessons through decades of urban crisis at various levels of impact continue to reveal the need to prevent and respond dramatically to the “tragedy of the commons” problems. The shared commons of the city are easily recognized by residents as our public health, education, open space, and transportation systems. On this point, there are futures all dense urban areas must carefully evaluate in the aftermath of every crisis.
Public Health and Education
There is no doubt, improvements in human health and education systems occur by fully defining the health concerns produced by commonly used environments. With this responsibility, a deepening in our common understanding of the issues depends enormously on the quality of public education. Today the practice of investment in health and education is grounded in policies to eliminate inequality and build better pathways to equity. We know as an undisputed fact this eliminates a long list of the health and economic disparities in life for all people. We have benefited from previous generations who also demanded reform with a noble cause. Nevertheless, we also know that many of the actions for transformation failed by forcing displacement and rehousing few. In the last fifty years of the 20th century, attempts to demolish homes, cultures, and the economies of entire neighborhoods produced a valuable urban institutional resistance defined by two words, “never again,” but as political leaders (as all of us) admitted to errors and vulnerability, the entire city learned to accept a new kind of strength.
Parks, open spaces, and transportation networks of the urban public realm are assets of the reform movements and business interests of previous generations. The so-called ‘lungs of the city,’ expressed by an extensive park system, and tree-lined streets are also like the city transportation infrastructure. Neither is a static or unchanging system, and both desperately need to improve as a safe, seamless, and unfragmented component of urban life. The well-tended park reminds us of the self-cleaning capacity of nature, the same role for mass transit can occur with the same principles of self-protection.
The Way Forward
The COVID-19 crisis offers many opportunities for reflection on the importance of national moral leadership and responsiveness, but there are more pressing issues. First, this recent crisis brings to the world a second major challenge to the quality of life on earth. Second, the vast landscape of human knowledge is at our fingertips. Third, this should make us all reasonably pleased, and this is why.
The science of geology states with confidence that the earth is about halfway through its 18 to 20 billion-year life cycle. For all the analysis of all the other “x-ologies,” we value; this alone should give people good reasons to take a deep breath and reflect.
New pathways for the growth of humanity in cities we are building all over the earth for the next few thousand years are here today, waiting for continuous improvements. Long waterfront parks will expand urban resilience as each reaches to extend its pleasures in an unfragmented, linked urban park system from the hills of the wilderness into the valleys of every neighborhood. All the massive structures constructed by our forebearers for public education and health await reinvestment and re-invention as centers for learning. We can make them all cleaner, brighter, and more beautiful than ever before. We will move with confidence onto the swift, super-clean, and revitalized mass-transit system for access to these exciting new resources. Every crisis tells us just one thing. We have more work to do.
Know the following things:
It Is too late for sustainable development because the public discourse has difficulty with subtle, conditional messages so realize that.
Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself.
The global system is now far above its carrying capacity.
We act as if technological change can substitute for social change.
The time horizon of our current system is too short.
This is why the term resilience is now used more often than not. The main changes are upon us and Dennis Meadows who say the above is right. It is time to invest in resilience.
The estimates for a stabilized and sustainable world called for about 3% of the world’s GDP. Resilience will cost more than that, but now there is no choice.
Geopolitical challenges such as a pandemic or the multiple impacts of climate change instruct humanity’s genius to bring about systemic change and resist and reverse “them not us” policies and strategies. These are tests for leadership without national borders that rage against the intolerant behaviors most likely to kill or hurt anyone at any time. Again, anyone at any time.
Recognize human vulnerability as a powerful strength. It instructs societies on how to share a threat or resolve an issue. The logic that prevention comes at the cost of an ounce must also resist demands for buying pounds of warehouses to manage death. Science offers useful and lasting solutions to problems that often require decades of complex analysis. In the stirrings for a more robust form of global leadership, the nationalized political rush to cures and deficient reaction to climate change will cause death. In the process, it weakens the direction and leadership of science.
Finally, science belongs to us all. Darwin was a scientist without professional degrees; he was curious. That is all anyone needs. Significant global challenges, such as climate change and pandemics, are vast and complicated. What can one person or a small group of friends do? Here is a brief example.
Scientists will show you how inside of the big problems, there are hundreds of other smaller ones trying to get out. Those are the ones to work on, dig into, maybe even solve. The accelerated rate of species extinction puts all human life in peril. There are hundreds of ways it reversed by paying attention by the human hand at “wild urban interface.” The growth of citizen science through internet partnerships is the counterbalance. Sharing observations can connect our personal experiences with the reality of all Earth’s life forms. Think of something in nature that you enjoy, and it can be anything, a particular kind of tree, or bees and butterflies, ferns, and orchids. There are billions of life form interdependencies between you, your children’s future, and the community that is not understood and need ordinary people to discover, document, and recover the forgotten. To get started, have a look at these great ideas:
One argument often stuffed into questions on how to build common ground and a good society or even the capacity to sustain positive change in bad times is the proposition that logic with goodwill solves problems. Logic is science, goodwill, nothing but untrustworthy feelings that destroy the former.
American’s have simple-minded, or perhaps merely unexamined adolescent confidence about what and who we are among one another and in the world. The tension caused by this lack of examination may be psychological, political, or economic. The 19th century was said to be about Hope and the 20th c. of GreatExpectation. The paradox of this as a trend is how it tips the 21st century toward the claim of Despair.
We recognize in ourselves the hopeless questioning gaze in the distress of a suddenly wounded child. We also see that it is not a dishonest experience, but one capable of reversible insights regarding exuberant, competitive, playfulness of our growth into freedom. The principle that, it is only business or it is just politics, accepts harm without limits as mere spoils.
The day-to-day experience of our time has become distrustful, but not only of one another. We are becoming hostile toward human nature. We can see in ourselves and Nature a capacity for spreading acts of unrepairable self-affliction. Readily accepted public controls to reverse these conditions come with a moody resistance and the repression of irrational, empty of analysis, without one moment of reflection.
Because of that, “reflect” for a moment.
One cannot exhibit judgment if statistics dominate decisions. In this context, true judgment is lost. Organisms need energy, water, shelter, and reproduction to exist in one of two places. Some will travel thousands of miles across the earth to acquire resources. Others will glue themselves to rock to acquire needed resources. If an organism or a nation loses the mysticism and belief in a philosophy of hope and expectation in which each is born, the capacity to conduct strategy meaningfully evaporates into the dust of poor judgment.