your city parks
November 22, 2015, 3:40 pm
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From the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation:

NYC Parks is the steward of approximately 29,000 acres of land — 14 percent of New York City — including more than 5,000 individual properties ranging from Coney Island Beach and Central Park to community gardens and Greenstreets. We operate more than 800 athletic fields and nearly 1,000 playgrounds, 550 tennis courts, 66 public pools, 48 recreational facilities, 17 nature centers, 13 golf courses, and 14 miles of beaches. We care for 1,200 monuments and 23 historic house museums. We look after 650,000 street trees, and two million more in parks. We are New York City’s principal providers of recreational and athletic facilities and programs. We are home to free concerts, world-class sports events, and cultural festivals.

8.4 million people live in New York City (2013 census). Here is the per capita breakdown:

8.4 m  / 29,000 acres of parkland = 289 people per acre of parkland

8.4 m  / 800 athletic fields = 10,500 people per field

8.4 m  / 1,000 playgrounds = 8,400 people per playground

8.4 m  / 550 tennis courts = 15,273 tennis players per court

8.4 m  / 66 public pools = 127,273 swimmers per pool

8.4 m  / 48 recreational facilities = 175,000 people per rec center

8.4 m  / 17 nature centers = 494,118 nature lovers per nature center

8.4 m  / 13 golf courses = 646,154 golfers per course

8.4 m  / 14 miles of beach = 600,000 beach lovers per mile of beach

8.4 m  / 1,200 monuments = 7,000 civilians per monument

8.4 m  / 23 historic house museums = 365,217 history buff per museum

8.4 m  / 650,000 street trees = 13 trees per resident

Of course not 100% of the populace is interested in each of these institutions and facilities, but these numbers reflect two generations of disinvestment in all things public.


Subway skyscraper
November 21, 2015, 3:17 pm
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good outcomes for higher taxes
January 6, 2015, 7:28 pm
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Here is the last paragraph of Eric Jaffe’s article on gas taxes in the US. It projects some very good outcomes for higher gasoline taxes:

But in the long-run Americans would see some very real benefits from a price of gas that most closely reflected the true cost of driving. Fewer loved ones killed in car crashes. Healthier pregnancies and babies. More time spent with family and friends. Better access to jobs, and perhaps as productivity increased, higher wages. More livable developments and, with them, slimmer waistlines. Cleaner and quieter air. The sorts of things we can’t fit in our purses or wallets, but which cost us dearly just the same.

The Real Reason U.S. Gas Is So Cheap Is Americans Don’t Pay the True Cost of Driving, A gas tax that fully corrected for the social impact of car reliance would upend life as we know it, Eric Jaffe

gas tax
January 6, 2015, 7:20 pm
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Tscharaktschiew, Economics of Transportation (2014)

who owns the street?
January 4, 2015, 3:09 pm
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I recently saw a guy in an oversize pickup almost hit a girl while turning a corner. He yelled at her – watch where you’re going, you’ll get yourself killed – in his mind it was her fault. Some of us onlookers yelled back at him and he drove off. He wasn’t used to not getting his two tonne way.
Below is a history of what it used to be like: manslaughter charges, the driver responsible not the pedestrian, streets for multiple uses, fatalities a public issue. Car lobbies changed all that and might became right and today we have bullies in a playground.

It wasn’t always like this. Browse through New York Times accounts of pedestrians dying after being struck by automobiles prior to 1930, and you’ll see that in nearly every case, the driver is charged with something like “technical manslaughter.” And it wasn’t just New York. Across the country, drivers were held criminally responsible when they killed or injured people with their vehicles.


“If you ask people today what a street is for, they will say cars,” says Norton. “That’s practically the opposite of what they would have said 100 years ago.”


“If a child is struck and killed by a car in 2012, it is treated as a private loss, to be grieved privately by the family,” Norton says. “Before, this stuff was treated as a public loss – much like the death of soldiers.” Mayors dedicated monuments to the victims of traffic crimes, accompanied by marching bands and children dressed in white, carrying flowers.


Norton explains that in the automobile’s earliest years, the principles of common law applied to crashes. In the case of a collision, the larger, heavier vehicle was deemed to be at fault. The responsibility for crashes always lay with the driver.


The industry lobbied to change the law, promoting the adoption of traffic statutes to supplant common law. The statutes were designed to restrict pedestrian use of the street and give primacy to cars. The idea of “jaywalking” – a concept that had not really existed prior to 1920 – was enshrined in law.

The current configuration of the American street, and the rules that govern it, are not the result of some inevitable organic process. “It’s more like a brawl,” says Norton. “Where the strongest brawler wins.”

The Invention of Jaywalking, The forgotten history of how the auto industry won the right of way for cars, Sarah Goodyear

17th century London
November 6, 2013, 4:25 pm
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3D representation of 17th century London before The Great Fire by Pudding Lane Productions.

what people, what relations, what style of life, what aesthetic values
February 16, 2013, 2:20 pm
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visakhapatnam hb colony k r deepakDavid Owen said, “our cities are products of our failure to understand what we really want.” (Green Metropolis) Robert Park says – below – we make our cities after our hearts’ desire, and we remake ourselves by making cities. Put them together and we have a crazy proposition:  to not know what we want and to passively, and out of misunderstanding, allow what we make to make us.

In the excerpt from his book Rebel Cities below, the author Harvey extrapolates:  cities affect who we are, the quality of our relations with others and with nature, how we work and use tools, the values we hold.

We could try to bring balance back to the formula: to know what we want and then, eventually, to see the environments that we build transform us in beneficial ways.

From David Harvey’s book Rebel Cities:

The city, as the noted urban sociologist Robert Park once wrote, is:  “man’s most consistent and on the whole, his most successful attempt to remake the world he lives in more after his heart’s desire. But, if the city is the world which man created, it is the world in which he is henceforth condemned to live. Thus, indirectly, and without any clear sense of the nature of his task, in making the city man has remade himself.”  If Park is correct, then the question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from the question of what kind of people we want to be, what kinds of social relations we seek, what relations to nature we cherish, what style of daily life we desire, what kinds of technologies we deem appropriate, what aesthetic values we hold. The right to the city is, therefore, far more than a right of individual access to the resources that the city embodies: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city more after our heart’s desire.

David Harvey, Rebel Cities