How the City Affects Your Psyche: Best #Cityreads of the Week

A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in this week.

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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 Death of a Great American City: Why Does Anyone Still Live in Detroit?" David Uberti, The Guardian

Khalil Ligon couldn’t tell if the robbers were in her house. She had just returned home to find her front window smashed and a brick lying among shattered glass on the floor. Ligon, an urban planner who lives alone on Detroit’s east side, stepped out and called the police.

It wasn’t the first time Ligon’s home had been broken into, she told me. And when Detroit police officers finally arrived the next day, surveying an area marred by abandoned structures and overgrown vegetation, they asked Ligon a question she often ponders herself: why is she still in Detroit?

"Is Your City Making You Crazy?" Jared Keller, Pacific Standard

Americans’ love affair with cities has never been stronger. Drawn by vibrant culture and commerce, more than eight of 10 of us live in a city now, and the latest census figures show that migration to urban areas is continuing at a ferocious clip. The allure of the city to the young seeking inspiration and fortune and the aging fleeing boredom and isolation seems more intense than ever before.

But is this romance proving too hot to handle for some? New work on urban sprawl from Smart Growth America and the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center adds to a growing body of research suggesting that the continued growth—and spread—of cities may yield adverse effects on our well-being. The growth of cities has been repeatedly linked to a variety of physical ailments, from obesity to shorter life spans; to that, add long-term detrimental effects on the physical and economic development of adolescents who move to newly developed areas of sprawl, according to the new findings. As cities expand outward, nearby economic prospects start to dry up, and are replaced or offset by the physical stresses of commuting.

(hxdbzxy /Shutterstock.com)

"Fact or Fiction?: Your Car Is Hackable," Larry Greenemeier, Scientific American

When your home computer is hacked, the things at risk are your identity, finances and other digital assets. A cyber attack that can take control of your car—especially while you’re driving—raises the stakes considerably. As carmakers transform their vehicles into networked computers on wheels, concern has grown about hacker attacks on automobile systems and the seriousness of the threat.

"A New Look at Kowloon Walled City, the Internet's Favorite Cyberpunk Slum," Derek Mead, Vice's Motherboard

Until its final demolition in 1994, Hong Kong's Kowloon Walled City remained one of the strangest places on Earth. At its height in the late 80s, some 33,000 people were packed into roughly 2.6 hectares enclosed by former military base. Fitting so many people into such an incredibly tiny space meant building upward, turning the city into a stunningly dense vertical slum.

By all accounts, the ungoverned city had terrible living conditions, owing both to the simple reality of cramming so many people into such a tiny place as well as a legacy of Triad control. As noted by a 1995 South China Morning Post article touting the $61 million park that replaced the slum, the Kowloon Walled City was beset by "squalor and lawlessness" right up until it was demolished.

"The Walled City—the only part of Hong Kong which the imperial Chinese government refused to hand over to the British—became famous for its prostitutes, opium dens and unlicensed dentists," reads SCMP reporter John Flint's eulogy for the city. Flint reported that then-Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten "applauded the 'fantastic transformation'" of the former slum.

"Can Free College Save American Cities?" Cassie Walker Burke, Politico Magazine

Kalamazoo’s spirits—much like its population—had been in precipitous decline. From 1970 to 2007, the city’s population shrank 20 percent to just over 70,000. The sad, slow leak of manufacturing jobs had caused a sad, slow leak of the middle class. Poverty was nearly twice the national average. Within some pockets of city, the problems were startling: in Northside, a predominantly black neighborhood, the poverty rate was 37 percent—worse than even basket-case Detroit, two hours to the east ...

Something had to change, and the plan that Brown announced that evening in 2005 figured to do just that. Quietly, a group of local philanthropists—who insisted on remaining anonymous, though most instantly suspected a group of homegrown billionaires whose fortunes had come from the locally based Stryker medical-devices firm—had come up with an idea to make a dramatic investment in the city’s schools and students. Over the giddy din that filled the auditorium that night, Brown explained that the donors had vowed to pay for college for any student who attended the Kalamazoo schools from kindergarten on and then attended a public college in Michigan. Students who entered before freshman year in high school would get a portion of their college education paid for depending on the years they spent in the Kalamazoo school district. The program, which was to be called the Kalamazoo Promise, would pay for college regardless of grade point average and financial situation—according to one estimate, it could be worth more than $100,000 per student for four years.

(Joe Seer/Shutterstock.com)

"Advocates Seek to Carve Out Official Latin American Areas in L.A.," Esmeralda Bermudez, Los Angeles Times

Jimenez and other Latino leaders have teamed up to promote a common goal: carving out islands for their communities in Los Angeles' jumbled landscape — Peru Village, Little Venezuela, Paseo Colombia, Guatemalan Mayan Village, Oaxacan Corridor.

Together, they want to emulate what Asians did with Thai Town, Little Tokyo, Historic Filipinotown and Little Bangladesh. Together, they're also hoping to keep Koreatown expansion at bay.

 

About the Author

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