A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days. Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.
"The Roast Duck Bureaucracy," Eveline Chao, Open City Magazine
Since its introduction three years ago, in response to a number of food-safety scares — including 1,300 salmonella cases reported in 2008 — New York City’s ABC restaurant grading scheme has been welcomed by the public and hailed by Michael Bloomberg for lowering salmonella outbreaks by 14 percent in its first year. Yet it has also been criticized by restaurateurs as confusing, arbitrary, and little more than a moneymaking racket for the city. In ethnic enclaves like Chinatown, the confusion surrounding the grading scheme can be compounded by language barriers, as well as a larger clash between tradition and bureaucracy.
The financial consequences are hefty. Even A restaurants pay an average $800 per year. B graded joints pay an average $2,800-4,200 each on fines and additional inspections (poor grades bring on more frequent visits from the department). A restaurant that earns a C will pay an average $6,000-10,000 per year.
"No Place Like Home," Aaron Wiener, Washington City Paper
A year ago, Harris and his family had their own apartment in Anacostia. Then he got laid off from his security job and fell behind on rent. He applied for the city’s emergency rental assistance program but was evicted before he received any funds. For a year, the family stayed with a series of friends and relatives, until they had nowhere to go. Last month, they checked into Virginia Williams.
Reid’s path to the rec centers was similar. She lost her home three years ago and managed to stay with acquaintances until late February, when the last one finally asked her to leave. As with the Harris family, it’s her first time in the shelter system.
It’s stories like these that lead homeless advocates to argue that, contra city officials’ claims, there is a real spike in family homelessness. And while the city may have been taken by surprise, they say the crisis was foreseeable.
"Could Austin and San Antonio Be the Next Dallas-Fort Worth?," John Egan, Culture Map Austin
An iconic “shared” project, such as a regional airport, would make a big difference in speeding up the union of the Austin and San Antonio areas, according to Hoover. A proposed high-speed rail line between the two cities could also help trigger mega-metro status, he said.
“To my mind, the single most influential event that would propel the coming together of these two great cities is high-speed rail,” said Ryan Robinson, the City of Austin’s demographer. “Imagine stepping on a train in downtown Austin and seeing the Alamo out the train window about 30 minutes later. Talk about time-space convergence.”
"Struggling New Mexico Town Hopes to Get Economic Boost from Space Tourists," Al Jazeera America
Originally called Hot Springs, the town thrived as a health resort before its treatments fell out of vogue after World War II. In 1950 residents voted to change the name to that of a popular radio quiz show, Truth or Consequences, in the hope of luring visitors back.
Still struggling decades later to entice tourists to its spas, art galleries, stores and cafes, the town’s business community hopes the rich joyriders, their entourages and a stream of tourists from around the world will kick-start a long-overdue revival.
"The Casualties of Phnom Penh's Real Estate Boom," Daniel Otis, Next City
As Phnom Penh mushrooms, the city’s urban poor are being removed from their homes with little or no compensation to make way for commercial and residential developments. The trend is being repeated elsewhere in the country as well, with entire villages forcefully relocated for the sake of foreign-backed sugarcane and rubber plantations. According to Cambodian human rights group , more than 400,000 Cambodians have been affected by such land concessions since 2003.