Posts tagged with "cities":
Researchers at Arizona State University have discovered yet another way urbanization contributes to noise pollution. In this case it is not so much what is being added to the aural environment, but rather what is being taken away. A new study establishes a direct link between degrees of urbanization and the prevalence of parasites that tend to fatally affect finches. Beyond prevalence, the research shows that the loss of natural habitat within more urbanized areas also amplifies the severity of the gastrointestinal infections that afflict the songbirds. My poor Swomee-Swans...
At the end of September, the AIA released “Cities as Lab”, a report stipulating how innovative design can help strengthen modern urban America. Presented during the National Leadership Speaker Series in Washington D.C., it stressed how resilient cities are better suited to address upcoming social, economic, and physical challenges. The report is part of a larger framework looking to guide the international development agenda for decades to come. As a whole, it seeks to fuel the progress of critical sustainable programs around the world. The AIA report states that by incorporating innovative design and technology within their internal structure, cities would have the power to lead the way toward the future. Urban enclaves are being reconfigured in order to respond to changing realities and contemporary human and economic needs. Some of the key examples stated in the report include the Boston Innovation District, North Carolina's Research Triangle Plan, and the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. These programs focus on a series of urban experiments seeking to promote knowledge exchange and economic opportunities, to develop new technological hubs, to mitigate the ecological footprint through sustainable design, and to introduce new architectural archetypes in order to foster creative place-making. All of these ideas are critical linchpins for visionary and sustainable planning. In its concluding remarks, the report indicates that intelligent design and wise policy choices help create places that are suited to meet the needs of future populations, to respond to economic challenges, and to manage natural disasters. The general idea is to create more resilient communities and sustainable infrastructures that will be able to sustain future economic and physical challenges. The initiative focuses on ways to create more valuable, healthy, secure and sustainable built environments by exploring solutions to pressing issues that urban enclaves are faced with.
It seems only fitting that New York City, the most densely populated city in the United States, is now home to a new academic institute devoted to the study of cities and urbanization. After receiving a generous $40 million donation from billionaire and NYU trustee Donald Marron, New York University launched the Marron Institute on Cities and the Urban Environment this week. According to the institute’s website, the institute is an “interdisciplinary and international effort to advance vital new research and teaching on cities and the urban environment,” and will “help cities around the world become more livable, sustainable, and equitable.”
Cities matter. In the Midwest recent headlines have read like an urban planning syllabus: post-industrial rebirth attracts a new generation of urbanites downtown, the roll-out of high-speed rail begins to pick up pace, and while innovative solutions to the region’s well-documented problems abound, a lingering fiscal crisis and unfunded pension liabilities threaten to squash even the most attainable aspirations. Those topics and more made the agenda at University of Illinois Chicago’s annual Urban Forum held Thursday, whose lineup included the mayors of Columbus and Pittsburgh, as well as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Metropolitan Resilience in a Time of Economic Turmoil” was the topic at hand. Sporting reindeer antlers, a protestor was removed from the conference for trying to confront UIC board of trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy over an ongoing labor dispute at the University. His opening salvo may have summed up the emotional state of the intertwined crises of labor and urban redevelopment better than the slew of statistics his target subsequently laid out, but the numbers are indeed telling: Illinois faces the nation’s largest unfunded pension liability; Chicago and Cook County grapple with decaying infrastructure and persistent impoverishment—some 500,000 people in the suburbs live in poverty, outnumbering those in the city. Governor Quinn and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle skipped out on their scheduled appearances to deal with ongoing pension negotiations, but their deputy staffers filled in for the hand-wringing. It would cost so much just to “stop the pain,” said Deputy Mayor Steven Koch, and pay off debt interest at all three levels of government that doing so would bankrupt them instantly. At least they are not alone. “We have a particularly bad form of this disease,” Koch said, “but the disease is widespread.” Somewhat less grim was the following panel, which asked the top brass of Columbus, Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh to share their municipal travails. Facing financial crisis in 2001 and then again in 2008, Columbus “had to make a decision about what kind of city we wanted to be,” according to Mayor Michael Coleman. Service cuts were unavoidable, he said, but cutting too much could plunge the city into a spiral from which it would take decades to recover. Faced with cutting firemen and police, Coleman said he approached the business community with plans for a half-percent tax hike. They and the public supported it, he said, in lieu of further cuts. In Pittsburgh, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl recounted the steps he took to attract $5 billion in new downtown investment to the former steel city, which “hit the wall” around 1983. The ultra-green PNC Tower and a growing cadre of Google jobs were his celebrated examples, but he said investing in bike paths and other transportation infrastructure was critical to the revival of the city’s Bakery Square neighborhood. Secretary LaHood closed the day with a rallying cry for high-speed rail that minced no words. “High-speed rail is coming to America,” he said. “There’s no stopping it. We are not going back.” Though the secretary deflected credit for the policy change onto the President, he said his legacy would be safety, pointing to distracted driving restrictions now on the books in 39 states. “Everyone knows what’s needed in the United States,” LaHood said. “The issue is how do we pay for it?” Federal grant programs for multimodal transportation projects have expanded under the Recovery act, but LaHood said the key to sustaining growth was leveraging private money, in part through strategic loan programs. As for governors refusing to spend federal money on rail projects in their states, the secretary said, “Elections matter.”