A Street Sign Kerfuffle, a Hipster Alliance and More: Best #CityReads of the Week

Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days.

Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days. Share your favorites on Twitter with #cityreads.

This Is Not a Revolution, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, New York Review of Books

Darkness descends upon the Arab world. Waste, death, and destruction attend a fight for a better life. Outsiders compete for influence and settle accounts. The peaceful demonstrations with which this began, the lofty values that inspired them, become distant memories. Elections are festive occasions where political visions are an afterthought. The only consistent program is religious and is stirred by the past. A scramble for power is unleashed, without clear rules, values, or endpoint. It will not stop with regime change or survival. History does not move forward. It slips sideways...

New or newly invigorated actors rush to the fore: the ill-defined “street,” prompt to mobilize, just as quick to disband; young protesters, central activists during the uprising, roadkill in its wake. The Muslim Brothers yesterday dismissed by the West as dangerous extremists are now embraced and feted as sensible, businesslike pragmatists. The more traditionalist Salafis, once allergic to all forms of politics, are now eager to compete in elections. There are shadowy armed groups and militias of dubious allegiance and unknown benefactors as well as gangs, criminals, highwaymen, and kidnappers.

A view from Homs. (Reuters)

The Nets and Brooklyn Deserve Each Other, Jon Kelly, New York Times Magazine

Though it has been under construction since 2010, the Barclays Center is still seen by many in Brooklyn as a Trojan Horse, a kind of unexpected gift that they’re vaguely afraid of. Outside the arena, the crowd was oddly silent. Passers-by pointed and talked in semi-spooked inside voices. The arena’s main entrance felt like La Guardia on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. There was dread, there was foreboding, there were metal detectors but there was also the whiff of excitement people get when they’re about to escape from their everyday lives. For on one side of those metal detectors was Brooklyn — a borough of tree-lined streets and quaint coffee shops, sure, but also big-box stores, empty lots and the Gowanus Canal. (On average, Brooklyn residents are roughly half as wealthy as Staten Islanders.)

Natives Join 'Hipsters in Reviving Detroit, Jay Walljasper, Christian Science Monitor

This burst of youthful energy – even in the face of the city’s continuing economic and social woes – debunks widespread opinion that nothing can be done to jumpstart the Motor City. While a new, more positive narrative about Detroit is welcome, there are problems in focusing entirely on idealistic young adventurers swooping in to save the city – it reinforces the stereotype of native Detroiters as hapless, helpless, and hopeless. 
 

The truth is, locals have been working hard for years to uplift the common good in Detroit, which drew the interest of outsiders. And newcomers aren’t the only ones stirring up excitement around town. Good People Popcorn, for instance, was started by two sisters and a cousin, all of whom grew up here. Sarida Scott Montgomery, one of the founders who is also a lawyer and executive director of the Community Development Advocates of Detroit, says people are often surprised she grew up in the city. "Not in the suburbs," she says, "but in Detroit itself."


The inside of the abandoned "Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church in Detroit. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

In Jerusalem, Even Street Naming Can Be Divisive, Joel Greenberg, Washington Post

In East Jerusalem, addresses in many Palestinian neighborhoods are nonexistent. Without street names and house numbers, people identify where they live by adjacent landmarks: “opposite the mosque,” or “next to the corner bakery.”

Bills and mail are delivered to those fortunate enough to have post office boxes or by local couriers familiar with the homes and people living on the unmarked streets.

So it was with a bit of fanfare that Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, presided Wednesday over a street-naming ceremony in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, showcasing it as part of an effort to bridge gaps in living conditions between Jewish and Arab residents in the city.

In ultra-Orthodox Jew stands in front of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

How Experts Would Fix Cities, Bloomberg Businessweek

Cities are very good at talking to each other. Mayors talk to mayors. City officials talk to city officials. The lessons that are starting to really take root are that there’s safety in numbers. [The C40 Cities Climate Leadership group, a coalition of the world’s megacities] is a great example. They said, “Let’s learn from each other. And let’s learn by doing things.” And cities are finding that five cities in a country, four cities, maybe a few cities in a region by working together, the lessons become much more readily transferred.

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.