Thursday, January 30, 2014


From the Atlantic Cities, an article about DRIVE-THRUS and how they discriminate against non-drivers by denying service to pedestrians, bikers, and wheelchair users. Reading the piece helped us recall that we had actually experienced this about a decade ago at a McDonald's on Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

Monday, January 20, 2014


In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, here's one of our favorite MLK quotes, from a 1963 interview in which he was asked about BUSING:

"I lean towards the view that it is a very tragic thing for young people, children to grow up in association, communication with only people of their own race. Prejudices develop from the very beginning because of this. Narrow provincial views emerge because of this. I think the only way to break this kind of provincialism is to bring people together on a level of genuine intergroup and interpersonal living. I do not think we can afford to wait until all the problems of residential segregation are solved before we grapple with the problem of segregation in educational institutions. Therefore, I lean towards the idea that segregation must be removed from schools all over the country. For I do not think that the residential segregation must be used as an excuse for the perpetuation of segregation in educational institutions." 

Saturday, January 18, 2014


There's a pretty thoughtful article about "How NYC's Decade of Rezoning Changed the City of Industry" on Curbed. It offers a nice overview of the city's recent (and shifting) industrial policies, from the free market idealizations of the Giuliani and early Bloomberg administrations, to Bloomberg's "about face"--evidenced by his establishment of Industrial Business Zones and The Mayor's Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses--to de Blasio's stated commitment to preserving and strengthening the industrial sector. "It can be easy at a glance to see New York City's endless cycles of growth and rebirth as an organic process," writes the author, but "[business owner Michael] Smart says he now understands that nothing in the city is as random or spontaneous as it seems. Neighborhood-wide change is largely sketched out, years in advance, by the city's decision makers." Well put.

We have previously written about industrial displacement, and are presently developing a plan for the Greenpoint / Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone. Both ask a question that we're frankly surprised more people don't ask: does the development of manufacturing areas have to be a zero-sum game? Does the hipster’s gain have to be the manufacturer’s loss, or can redevelopment happen in a way that mutually benefits both parties? What planning tools are out there that could foster the coexistence (rather than succession) of different uses and different socio-economic groups in one place? If such tools don’t exist, can we invent them? Could we imagine a “SumCity” plan for, say, North Williamsburg that sought creative ways to add the new to the old through zoning, design, branding, and strategic planning?

Friday, January 17, 2014

NIMBY New Year Wrap-Up

Some exclusion & inclusion-related stories around the news . . .

In our rush to promote higher-density urbanism, are we inadvertently creating child-free zones that are inhospitable to families with kids? That's a great question, and it is taken up in this piece in Atlantic Cities. The answer? Pretty much.

Here's a thoughtful piece in Architectural Record by Michael Sorkin, who we know and admire. Needless to say, we agree with Sorkin's premise that "it's time for New York and other cities to connect urban planning to social equity," and we share his optimism that our fearless new Mayor Bill de Blasio could right some of the wrongs of the previous administration. But since we're gathered here on this website to talk about NIMBYism, we thought we might call out the following contradiction: Sorkin bemoans the inability of "neighborhoods to meaningfully participate in planning their own destinies," but some of the things he is rightly critical of--for example, the fact that, under Bloomberg's watch, "historic," white, neighborhoods like the one we live in were downzoned, while "up-zoned lots tended to be located in census tracts with a higher proportion of nonwhite residents than the median tract in the city"--are the product of neighborhoods planning their own destinies. The point is, as the history of NEIGHBORHOOD ORGANIZATIONS, MUNICIPAL ANNEXATION, and any number of other entries in our forthcoming book attest, it's important to remember that local control is a double-edged sword.

A friend of ours who teaches in a public school in Newark posted this NJ Spotlight article on Facebook. It's about segregation in NJ schools and it's worth a read.

Speaking of New Jersey, This seems like old news now, considering has much has happened to Chris Christie since Christmas, but shout out to the NY Times editorial board for once again highlighting the important work of the amazing Fair Share Housing Center, who back in December filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in April "charging that the state plan for distributing Hurricane Sandy recovery aid discriminated against blacks and Hispanics who lost their homes in the storm."

This rant from a "Silicon Valley denizen" is silly but hilarious.

Listen to this now! This American Life and Arsenal contributor Nikole Hannah-Jones! A match made in heaven!

Have you been following the story about the residents of Baton Rouge who are campaigning to become their own separate city of St. George? We haven't either, which is why we can't really say whether it is, as one source put it, "A tale of two cities," in which "Wealthy white residents of Baton Rouge launch campaign to split from poorer black areas to form their own breakaway city." But we can say is that INCORPORATION is a tried and true weapon of racial exclusion with a rather ugly history. Soon you will be able to read about it in our forthcoming book!