Friday, December 30, 2011

Cyburbia Land Use and Zoning Forum

For fun, mindless, internet browsing, some people go to sites like boingboing or happyplace, or stalk high school girlfriends on Facebook, but our site of choice is the Cyburbia Land Use and Zoning Forum. Ever wonder how to outzone Inflatable-air-dancer-thingies? Need tips for taking down fraternities in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals? Having trouble writing setback regulations for water slides? Well look no further! If, like us, you're unhealthily fascinated by the politics of the built environment, you might find the forum as endlessly amusing as we do. Highly recommended!

Excluding "Inclusionary"

For what it's worth, the Blogger spellchecker doesn't recognize the word "inclusionary," even though it recognizes the word "exclusionary."

Thursday, December 29, 2011


None of us can quite remember how we stumbled upon this link about the documented Civil Rights abuses committed by SPEED BUMPS, and neither have we researched the issue any further (and nor do we know what it says about us that we are researching such things in the first place), but in any event, it appears that SPEED BUMPS have a shot at the Arsenal of Exclusion. To build a case against traffic calmng measures, some anti traffic-calming group points out that: "Citizens in Houston, Texas filed a complaint with HUD that gates installed as part of a calming project were used to segregate communities along racial and socio-economic lines. HUD found the City of Houston in violation of the civil rights of its citizens and ordered the gates removed. Gates were replaced with humps to effectively, though less obviously, achieve the same result - denial of access by minorities and tenants of lesser socio-economic status to the use of adjacent neighborhoods." If anyone knows more about this, please don't hesitate to let us know!


We have been reading The Fires, a great book by Joe Flood about the (mostly devastating) consequences of Mayor Lindsay's decision to enlist the RAND Corporation and their "new budget science" to help New York City's Fire Department do more with less in the 1970s. There's a lot we could say about the book, which we are finding fairly riveting, but for now, suffice it to say that we have another entry in the Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion: COLD WATER. Flood writes that Robert Moses didn't heat pools in white neighborhoods near black ones because he didn't think blacks would swim in cold water. Awesome!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

You're Welcome, Now Scram!

One thing we always emphasize when talking about the Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion is the fact that the entries have little meaning apart from how they are used. With the exception of things like BOMBS, entries in the Arsenal can usually go either way: they can exclude and include. This isn't just true of weapons like PUBLIC HOUSING, which theoretically opens the city to the poor but which in most cities was used as a means to foster racial segregation; it's true of weapons like RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS COVENANTS, which in at least one case (Baltimore's Morgan Park) were used by African Americans to build an affluent, vibrant, non-redlined neighborhood in the suburbs.

But one thing we rarely emphasize--and haven't written about--is the fact that our attitudes about openness in our cities can be so conflicting. This thought was provoked by this amazing window display in a real estate office near our office on Flatbush Avenue that caught our attention yesterday:

Needless to say, it seems odd to believe in one's right to live where one chooses but not stand where one chooses.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Supermarket Segregation

In Baltimore, even the checkout aisle at the supermarket is racially segregated! These two images represent the left and right sides of aisle 6 at the Waverly Giant:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Here's a candidate for the ARMREST ON BENCH centerfold playmate of the year, spotted on a recent trip to Washington D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street at LentSpace

Our phones and inboxes were abuzz this morning with news that Occupy Wall Street is trying to occupy LentSpace, the temporary sculpture space on Canal and Sixth Avenue that we designed in 2009. Needless to say, as supporters of the movement, this is very exciting news!

Below find some pictures of LentSpace from 2009:

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Halloween is Interboro’s favorite holiday, hands down.

One important reason: it is the only holiday that has an entry in our forthcoming book, The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion. Halloween is, after all, an evening when kids (and adults) from different neighborhoods and socio-economic classes share the sidewalks of the city. For one evening at least, typical boundaries between neighborhoods and between public and private evaporate.

This is apparently very true in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, where a student of mine named Jason Gottlieb lives. Thankfully, Jason took some incredible pictures of the Hampton Halloween experience, which you can see below:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Matthew Lassiter on the Silent Majority

We were happy to see The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion contributor Matthew Lassiter's op-ed in today's New York Times. Congratulations on a great piece!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

MTO, Health, and New Urbanism

It's great to see so much press coverage around the publication of "Neighborhoods, Obesity, and Diabetes — A Randomized Social Experiment," an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about the health gains made by women who moved to low-poverty communities under the Moving To Opportunity Program. Here's a summary from CNN: "between 2008 and 2010, Ludwig and his colleagues followed up with 3,186 women who participated in the [MTO] program. . . . Of the women who stayed in their original neighborhoods, 20% had blood-sugar levels consistent with diabetes and 18% had a BMI of at least 40 (the unofficial cutoff point for morbid obesity). These rates were not measurably different among the women who received unrestricted vouchers. By contrast, just 16% of the women who moved to low-poverty areas had diabetes and just 14% were morbidly obese."

However, one thing that no article we have seen has mentioned is how this data flies in the face of so much New Urbanist propaganda about how living in the suburbs makes people fat. In the MTO program, moves from high-poverty communities to low-poverty ones typically (though not always) meant moves from denser, more urban neighborhoods to less dense, less walkable, more suburban ones. So what is it about the new environments that accounts for the health benefits? Jens Ludwig, lead author of the study is quoted in CNN saying that the move "changed a bunch of things at one time for these families, so it's hard to tease out exactly what made a big difference for them," but that greater access to healthy foods, a safer environment more conducive to outdoor exercise, and lower levels of psychological stress all "seem like plausible explanations."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jerold Kayden on Occupy Wall Street

In the media coverage of Occupy Wall Street, it has been great to see our former professor Jerold S. Kayden emerge as the go-to expert on publicly-owned private space. We first met Jerold in his excellent "Public Private Development" Class--which we all took at the GSD in 2000--and we subsequently helped him develop a brand around his then nascent "Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space" organization, which was founded after the publication of his exhaustive book on the topic. As most supporters of the Occupy movement know by now, one of the brilliant things about it is that by occupying Zuccotti Park, the occupiers occupied a privately-owned public space that, unlike a city-owned public space, can draft and enforce its own rules of operation (the city only requires that these rules be "reasonable"). Zuccotti Park--by almost any standard, one of the better privately-owned public spaces in the city--had very lax rules: one couldn't skateboard, roller skate, or bike through the park, but until October 13 of this year, there were no rules prohibiting camping or lying down.

As Kayden writes in his op-ed piece in the Times, "The rules remain unenforced; no one is sure what will happen next."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

There is so much we'd like to say about Occupy Wall Street, which we find inspiring, exciting, and essential, and which we support 100%. Among other things, it's a victory for public space, and a reminder of how real democracy is impossible without it. Fortunately, someone with a much bigger audience than this blog has written a really thoughtful piece that hits the nail on the head, and says a lot of the things that this blog might have said if we were better at this. Michael Kimmelman's "In Protest, The Power of Place" is a must read. Seriously: follow the link and read it now!

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Landscapes of Privilege by James and Nancy Duncan has been on our reading list for a while now. A book about "how the aesthetics of physical landscapes are fully enmeshed in producing the American class system" that shows "how the physical presentation of a place carries with it a range of markers of inclusion and exclusion" is hard for us to resist! We finally had a chance to read it recently and we weren't disappointed. There's a lot we could say about it, but for now, we'd like to point out at least one new entry in the Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion that was inspired by it: WETLAND. Writing about Bedford, NY, the Duncans write that "The anti-development activists found that by the 1970s their best arsenal came from the environmental movement and its vocabulary of wetlands and biodiversity." According to the Duncans, as the town started experiencing development pressure, residents suddenly became concerned about wetlands: by essentially feigning an interest in the health of the earth, residents could be exclusionary while seeming progressive.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Affordable Housing in Woodstock

There's a great article in the New York Times today about affordable housing in Woodstock, NY. At issue is a 53-unit affordable housing complex called Woodstock Commons that is stirring up a lot of controversy, despite having broken ground earlier this summer. Opponents, trying carefully to deflect accusations of Nimbyism, cited practical objections based on Woodstock’s small size, quaint downtown, and aging infrastructure. "Among their complaints: the project is too big, it is at a dangerous bend for traffic and the site should remain green space."
Well, it certainly sounds like Nimbyism to us. The Times quotes the Town Supervisor, who seems to tell it like it is: “Nobody would tell you they don’t want these people in our town. . . . Instead, they talk about the effect on the quality of life, ramping up the costs of services and those kind of things. But there’s a joke in town that the reason The Woodstock Times costs a dollar is because people don’t want change. People come here and they think they have an investment in the town being a certain way.”

The controversy surrounding Woodstock Commons is in many ways analogous to the controversy surrounding the ongoing housing desegregation suit in Westchester, where "limousine liberals" are organizing against court-mandated affordable housing along some of the same grounds. I don't think there are many limousine liberals in Woodstock, but the Woodstockers' claim that they are acting in the interest of Mother Earth bears a resemblance to the sudden concerns about wetland protection that emerged in Westchester communities like Bedford in the 1970s (read James and Nancy Duncan's excellent Landscapes of Power for more on this topic).

The fact remains that, as the article points out, Woodstock real estate prices are "increasingly out of the reach of the humbler classes." Does anything more really need to be said?

Thursday, September 1, 2011


A Facebook friend just posted this amazing picture:

It reminded us: how cool is Sesame Street? How open, inclusive, and diverse?

Not coincidentally, a lot of the Sesame Street action takes place on the STOOP, one of the most basic entries in the Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion. It's too easy to fall into Jane Jacobs here, but really, what better place exists for comfortable, spontaneous encounter? As many have pointed out by now, Sesame Street was first conceived in the late 1960s, a time when the adjective "urban" had begun to collect some of its negative connotations. To successfully pitch a show that focused on openness, inclusion, diversity, and other urban attributes must have not been easy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Architecture for Everyone at the BMW Guggenheim Lab

Thanks to everyone who made it out to “Architecture for Everyone” at the BMW Guggenheim Lab. Thanks, too, to our amazing panel, which included Andrew Kahrl, Marquette University (on beach tags), Amy Lavine, Government Law Center at Albany Law School (on community benefit agreements), Kaja Kuhl, Columbia GSAPP (on immigrant recruitment), Beryl Satter, Rutgers University-Newark (on contract selling and credit), Meredith Tenhoor, Princton (on fire hydrants), and Damon Rich, Center for Urban Pedagogy, City of Newark (on practicing urban design in a post-great-migration city). The event was a nice preview of The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion book, which, as readers of this blog know by now, looks at 101 “weapons” that bring people together and keep people apart in our cities. The pictures below aren’t so good, but check the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s website in the coming days for a video of the event.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


There's an excellent article in the New York Times today about beach access in New Jersey. Among other things, the article reveals the extent to which access to the beach is protected by a sub-arsenal of exclusion. We've already written about how FIRE HYDRANTS, PARKING, FIRE ZONES, and GATES are used to restrict access to beaches, but these are by no means the only weapons in the beach sub-arsenal. Here's the article: " Many places welcome visitors and their business, but for generations, some property owners, neighborhoods and towns have tried to stem that tide with scarce or time-limited parking, claims of private ownership, bans on food and drinks, and paths to the sand that are few in number or disguised. The wealthy Elberon section of Long Branch has plenty of beach access routes, but some can be hard to discern. One path from Garfield Terrace is fenced off, with a “residents only” sign, though people who know better ignore the sign and go through the gate. Adams Street, a nearby cul-de-sac, reaches a dead end about 50 yards from the beach, and the remaining distance is landscaped, looking like private property. The shrubs nearly obscure a small blue sign, marking it as public access."

So to the arsenal of exclusion we can add:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Westchester Housing Desegregation Case

There's a great article in Salon about the Westchester housing desegregation case. For those who are unfamiliar with this important case, this article is a great primer. In sum: "Westchester is defying a landmark federal court order to desegregate housing in its whitest and wealthiest towns, prompting civil rights activists to return to court. The federal government has allowed wealthy municipalities to keep the poor and black out for decades, and municipal leaders nationwide are watching closely to see if the Obama administration forces the county to comply."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Museum of Fortress Architecture

Tourists flock to visit Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Have a look at what protects them from the city just behind the harbor:

It's so easy to beat up on Baltimore for this sort of thing, but Pratt Street really is like a museum of fortress architecture, with few doors, imposing, windowless concrete facades, wide, one-way streets, half a dozen skywalks, and enough bollards to derail an invasion of tanks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


We somehow stumbled upon this heartfelt op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Daily News that made us aware of an important issue: The City of Los Angeles is considering an ordinance to outzone sober-living homes: "recovery homes" consisting mostly of people who have completed inpatient drug treatment programs. As the author of the op-ed writes, the proposed "Community Care Facilities Ordinance" would declare thousands of single-family homes in Los Angeles "boarding houses," and thereby ban them in single-family neighborhoods: "The ill-fated logic is that such uses are not appropriate for single-family zones and that these homes belong in multifamily areas." We will certainly be following this story. In the meantime, best of luck to those fighting this ridiculous piece of legislation. .

Saturday, March 12, 2011


We were flipping through the excellent The Suburb Reader today, and noticed this amazing 1948 subdivision plan:

The caption reads: Proposed Subdivision Plan for Urban Villas, 1948. This subdivision plan, prepared by the FHA for a black veterans' group in Atlanta, bears the hallmarks of segregated suburban planning in the South. To secure white support, black civic leaders accepted and even emphasized the fifty-foot 'screen planting strip' that separated the development from white neighbors.

This is of course analogous to the infamous concrete WALL that developers of an African American subdivision in Detroit had to build to secure FHA financing. Both are classic examples of the resourcefulness of exclusion. Note however, the presence on the subdivision plan of an inclusionary measure: the CUL DE SAC SHORTCUT.