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.
"We Found Our Son in the Subway," Peter Mercurio, New York Times
The story of how Danny and I were married last July in a Manhattan courtroom, with our son, Kevin, beside us, began 12 years earlier, in a dark, damp subway station.
Danny called me that day, frantic. “I found a baby!” he shouted. “I called 911, but I don’t think they believed me. No one’s coming. I don’t want to leave the baby alone. Get down here and flag down a police car or something.” By nature Danny is a remarkably calm person, so when I felt his heart pounding through the phone line, I knew I had to run.
"How Google And Bing Maps Control What You Can See," John Herrman, Buzzfeed
"Does anyone know," asked writer Adrian Chen shortly after the Wired post went up, "why Bing maps often shows sensitive satellite images censored by Google?"
It's a good question, but one we may never get a clear answer to — Microsoft, in fact, admits that it censors map data while Google vehemently — though narrowly — denies it.
But it's a question that also gets at a bigger problem with how digital maps get made, and who controls what makes it into your web browser. Maps censorship, it turns out, is very real — just not in the ways you think.
"L.A. Sees Parks as a Weapon Against Sex Offenders," Angel Jennings, Los Angeles Times
On a tiny sliver of land in Harbor Gateway, the city is beginning construction on what officials believe will be the smallest park in Los Angeles. At one-fifth of an acre, the pocket park will barely have room for two jungle gyms, some benches and a brick wall.
But the enjoyment the park will give children is a secondary concern for officials. They are building the park for a different reason: to force 33 registered sex offenders to move out of a nearby apartment building.
State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school. By building the park, officials said, they would effectively force the sex offenders to leave the neighborhood. This section of Harbor Gateway has one of the city's highest concentrations of registered sex offenders: 86 live in a 13-block area.
Los Angeles plans to build a total of three pocket parks with the intent of driving out registered sex offenders; two will be in Wilmington.
"Researchers Challenge Jane Jacobsian Notion that 'Eyes On the Street' Reduce Crime," Matt Bevilacqua, Next City
Jane Jacobs “had it backwards,” according to a report in this month’s University of Pennsylvania Law Review.
Focusing on more than 200 blocks in eight high-crime Los Angeles neighborhoods, the report found that areas zoned for mixed-use development had lower crime rates than those zoned for commercial uses only. Areas purely made up of residences, however, had lower crime rates than either.
"How to Spend 47 Hours on a Train and Not Go Crazy," Nathaniel Rich, New York Times Magazine
Long-distance-train passengers tend to belong to one of four categories. The first, perhaps most obvious category is occupied by people who refuse to fly, whether because of religious beliefs, fear or health reasons, but there are fewer of these than you might expect. The second category belongs to train buffs, known less commonly as rail fans, GERFs (glassy-eyed rail fans), or foamers, a term coined by railroad employees to refer to people who became so excited by trains that they seem to foam at the mouth like rabies victims.
In the United States, there are more than 100,000 train watchers, according to one estimate, a number that includes a 70-year-old retiree from Germantown, Md., named Steve King, whose first job, in 1959, was to serve as an operator for B & O Railroad. Though King identifies himself as a “transportation geek,” he doesn’t look the part: he has the crew cut, hulking build and piercing gaze of a former military man, the type of fellow who doesn’t suffer fools or Amtrak disparagers gladly. But he turns avuncular and garrulous whenever his favorite subject comes up in conversation. His train obsession has expanded his world, leading him to develop complementary interests in photography, American history and a field he calls “industrial archaeology.”
"A Plan To Shrink Detroit (Well)," Justin Hollander, Planetizan
Last month, Detroit’s leaders unveiled their Strategic Framework Plan, affectionately referred to as "Detroit Future City". Two years in the making, this plan is nothing less than a watershed moment in the history of cities. The plan's right-sizing approach is a bold and powerful way for this city of 714,000 people to address its future, untethered by decades of growth-based policy commitments. While not without its flaws, the plan explodes with a new kind of urban optimism, a Detroit Future City that does not depend on economic growth but instead centers on creating high-quality places for people and nature.