The High Cost of Stadiums: Best #CityReads of the Week

Our weekly look back at the stories you may have missed.

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Reuters

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.

"In Stadium Building Spree, U.S. Tax Payers Lose $4 Billion," Aaron Kuriloff and Darrell Preston, Bloomberg

New York Giants fans will cheer on their team against the Dallas Cowboys at tonight’s National Football League opener in New Jersey. At tax time, they’ll help pay for the opponents’ $1.2 billion home field in Texas.

That’s because the 80,000-seat Cowboys Stadium was built partly using tax-free borrowing by the City of Arlington. The resulting subsidy comes out of the pockets of every American taxpayer, including Giants fans. The money doesn’t go directly to the Cowboys’ billionaire owner Jerry Jones. Rather, it lowers the cost of financing, giving his team the highest revenue in the NFL and making it the league’s most-valuable franchise.

“It’s part of the corruption of the federal tax system,” said James Runzheimer, 67, an Arlington lawyer who led opponents of public borrowing for the structure known locally as “Jerry’s World.” “It’s use of government funds to subsidize activity that the private sector can finance on its own.”

"District police embrace concept of preventing crime through design," Peter Hermann, The Washington Post

The land east of Nationals Park is already built up, and the pace is accelerating. An estimated 35,000 daytime visitors, workers and new residents are dressing up the Anacostia River front with restaurants and lofts. An upscale 50,000-square-foot grocery store is on the way.

Next up is a project called the Wharf, slated for 27 acres east of the 14th Street Bridge along Maine Avenue SW and Water Street near the Fish Market. Groundbreaking for the first phase is planned for spring; the ultimate aim is millions of square feet of buildings, 20 restaurants, three hotels, 500 boat slips, a concert hall and festival grounds.

All of the burgeoning development is being helped along by an agency that just years earlier might have been seen as an unlikely partner: the Metropolitan Police Department. Chief Cathy L. Lanier is embedding police commanders with developers in the belief that the way things are built can influence the behaviors of criminals and potential victims, much as speed bumps can slow cars.

Last month, Lanier; Daniel P. Hickson, commander of the department’s First District; and developers met at the future site of the Wharf to pore over a scale model and discuss surveillance cameras and sight lines. Hickson called the model “very impressive” even as he contemplated finding a contingent of officers to patrol an area that, at present, requires relatively little attention.

"Data Show a City's Car-Sharing May Be Working, but Doubts Persist," Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times

HOBOKEN, N.J. — It has been more than two years since officials in this parking-starved city placed a counterintuitive bet: Hoboken would create parking spaces, they said, by taking them away.

At the beginning of the program, 42 of the city’s roughly 9,000 on-street spaces were sacrificed to a city car-sharing program, known as Corner Cars, leading many residents to decry the arrival of new vehicles on their blocks, where claims to curbside space have long been regarded as sacrosanct.

The city’s mayor, Dawn Zimmer, said that the aim of the car share, which is operated by Hertz, was not to separate residents from their vehicles.

“There are people who need to drive every day,” she said, “and we want to make it easier for them to find parking.”

And according to survey data from the city, the experiment may be working.

"Tech & the City," Nancy Scola, Next American City (subscription-only)

It’s a rainy Wednesday in May on the fourth floor of a building on Broadway in New York City’s Flatiron District. On a giant monitor, Adam Pritzker, a slight 27-year-old with a tousled shock of dark hair, is showing me his midterm exam from his Columbia undergraduate days as a student of Dutch-American sociologist Saskia Sassen, who argued against the popular 1980s idea that technological innovation would come to be coupled with a sense of placelessness. Around us is a living experiment on the matter, all part of a global network called General Assembly.

In its common rooms, classrooms and desk-filled spaces, General Assembly houses a swarm of coders, flannel, designers, Converse sneakers, start-ups and Macs covering chaise lounges and couches. A display near the entrance lists classes for the taking: “Creating Infographics from Scratch,” “The Dos and Don’ts of App Marketing.” In the shared kitchen, coffee from Brooklyn’s subscription-based Craft Coffee brews.

Opening its doors in January 2011 with a $200,000 grant from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the 20,000-square-foot General Assembly blends tech education — offering sessions on everything from HTML to start-up law to information architecture — with shared working space.

Much of what makes General Assembly special happens because of the connectedness of the amassed community, says Pritzker. We move over to a pod made up of a pair of high-backed couches. Waving his hand around the blond-wood-and-glass space, Pritzker, one of the assembly’s founders, gives the example of one start-up’s chief technology officer leaning over to ask his counterpart at another company a question on coding.

"Why the Candidates Aren't Talking About Housing," Nick Timiraos, WSJ.com

Few events have reshaped the nation over the last half-decade as much as the housing crisis—particularly in key battleground states such as Florida, Ohio, and Nevada. But neither the Obama nor the Romney campaign has had very much to say about it.

Housing’s absence from the campaign debate has led to lots of head-scratching among pundits, though there is an obvious explanation for why it has taken a back seat: housing is a political loser.

All potential fixes are messy. Some are very expensive and reward irresponsible behavior. None will be a cure-all. And each will leave someone feeling left out.

Top image: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters

About the Author

  • Sommer Mathis is editor of CityLab. Previously she spent five years editing and reporting on the D.C. metro area at DCist.com and TBD.com.