betacity


money and where we put it
September 7, 2010, 10:35 pm
Filed under: density, Suburbs | Tags: ,

Here is an excerpt from Vishaan Chakrabarti’s article This Land is Our Land.  Dense New York City, which every American loves to hate, generates a huge proportion of the nation’s GDP.  It makes sense:  cities lead in the generation of wealth, always have, always will.  And what do we do with that wealth, as a country?  We throw it at the suburb in transfers, which sucks up breathtaking sums of capital for the creation of environments that are wasteful, expensive and unsustainable.  Why do we do this?  Because we live by a code that has become an orthodoxy:  an agrarian or suburban life is affordable, I am paying for it, and if people want it, why not let them have it?  This article gets it right:  this wasteful way of living is fully subsidized by urban people generating GDP.

So, how to move forward?  I think it’s crazy that the only really dense city in America is New York, and that it is really expensive to live in.  We need other centers like New York, with street life, apartment living, rent control, good food and health options.  Of course there are other cities like Boston, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Toronto and Vancouver.  But a lot of these cities don’t have the advantages that a city like New York or large European and even Asian cities offer.  You still have to drive everywhere, and the street is still not the center of life.  It’s time to talk about the subsidies that support ‘agrarian’ life and soon, to begin to cut them off.  It’s time to change the policies that have allowed the construction of the crazy environments we have built ourselves to live in.

Here is the excerpt:

That same study found that New York City annually generates a staggering $1.5 billion per square mile of the country’s GDP.

With density comes prosperity, and prosperity should yield political power. Yet consistently we in New York City give billions of tax dollars to Albany and to Washington that never return, billions we could use to fund our much-needed infrastructure. Imagine the subways, the parks, the schools, the affordable housing, the high speed rail, the bike lanes we could build if we could keep a larger percentage of the wealth that our very lifestyle generates.

Yet, for example, at a recent Forum for Urban Design dinner held here in New York regarding America in 2050, we heard analyses that either purposefully ignored the subsidies that facilitate people’s choices to live in the suburbs, therefore skewing all the data presented, or we heard that in an attempt to densify America, the best we can hope for is “walkable urbanism,” the epitome of which apparently is – wait for it – Bethesda, Maryland! Well meaning as this may be, is Bethesda really the best we can hope for? A place where virtually everyone lives in a single family house and drives to get a quart of milk?

/…/

Study after study shows that dense urban environments, supported by the right transportation, lead to lower health care costs, less dependence on foreign oil, less risk of environmental accidents, less global warming, and more competitiveness.

This Land is Our Land, Vishaan Chakirabarti, Urban Omnibus

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