Early morning traffic in Brooklyn moves slowly beneath the Manhattan skyline. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.

Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

New York Is a Livable Place—Who Knew?” Ann Friedman, Los Angeles Times

After months of fruitless job-hunting in Los Angeles, Kerensa Cadenas landed her dream job. There was just one catch: It was in New York, that East Coast city often stereotyped as a taco-less wasteland without height restrictions. “I'm excited for my new job,” says Cadenas, a writer who is moving across the country this month after spending the past several years in L.A. She's nervous about the lifestyle change, but, she says, “If I can find a gourmet grocery store where attractive strangers hang out at 2 p.m. on a weekday, that might help.” She landed an apartment in Brooklyn, which she's heard is similar to the Eastside of Los Angeles.

Unlikely though it may seem, Cadenas is part of a trend: Angelenos have always loved visiting New York, but lately they have embraced the city as a place to live. According to Census data, between 2008 and 2012 almost as many Angelenos moved to New York as New Yorkers moved to Los Angeles.

Changing the Narrative in Detroit,” Jane Greenway Carr, Pacific Standard Magazine

"Make your own voice. Tell your own story. Be a rebel and kick some ass."

These words are the voiceover spoken by fashion designer John Varvatos in a now-viral video celebrating the opening of his store in Detroit. “Coming back to Detroit and opening the store here,” reflects the native son, “is a magical thing for me.”

Laid over black-and-white images of the Motor City’s near-mythic history of automobiles, urban decay, and rock and roll, Varvatos’ voice isn’t the only one offering lyrical tributes. “I love the fact that Detroit’s an underdog,” music legend Alice Cooper declares. “You wait. Detroit always comes back.”

Many find this narrative of demise and re-birth in the city best known as the scene of the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history to be irresistible. But the Varvatos video and the panel discussion it introduced at New America’s annual conference both testify to a new bottom line: Unless you know this city, it doesn’t matter whether you’re ready to write Detroit’s eulogy or lionize its incipient renaissance. It’s time for Detroit to tell its own stories.

In this Jan. 28, 2010 photo, Gregory Holm sprays water on an abandoned house in Detroit.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Why Can’t Cleveland Be More Like a Bicycle?” G.M. Donley, BELT Magazine

The road racing bicycle is one of history’s great design achievements: it multiplies the potential of the human body, allowing a person to travel much greater distances and at much greater speeds than a human walking or running. And it needs only a tiny fraction of the energy expenditure of even the most fuel-efficient motorized vehicle. A cyclist can easily cover 50 miles on 2,000 calories worth of oatmeal and Snickers bars; meanwhile, just one gallon of regular gasoline contains more than 30,000 calories; if the average US passenger vehicle gets 25 mpg, it consumes 60,000 calories for 50 miles. That’s roughly a 30-to-1 advantage in energy expenditure for one person riding a bike vs. one person driving a typical car. If you put 4 people into the car, the bike still has a better than 7-to-1 advantage. Plus, a bike is beautiful too.

I'm From Philly. 30 Years Later, I'm Still Trying To Make Sense Of The MOVE Bombing,” Gene Demby, NPR

Talk to some of the folks who lived through the bombing of 62nd and Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia 30 years ago, and you'll notice that they refer to the event by its full date. May 13, 1985.

That's how Gerald Renfrow refers to it when we talk about the inferno. His house is about 30 yards from the compound on which the bomb was dropped — practically ground zero. He'd been living there since long before the bombing, and now he's the block captain, trying to hold on to the home where he grew up and raised his own family.

That's how Perry Moody refers to it, too. His house is on the north side of Pine Street. On that day three decades ago, he had been evacuated from the block but watched as the houses on the other side of the street were swallowed up by flames.

Milton Williams poses in the back ally near his Osage Avenue home in Philadelphia with a salvaged number plate from his original house. Williams' house was one of scores of rebuilt after police dropped a bomb on the block in 1985 in an attempt to arrest members of the militant group MOVE. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Real Mayors of ‘SimCity’,” Jason Koebler, MOTHERBOARD

Victoria Lederberg served as the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island for only one day. During her term, she bulldozed a church and a nice, well-functioning neighborhood. She built new police stations on every block of other neighborhoods, and she condemned the local power plant, replacing it with a nuclear reactor.

How'd she do all of this in a day? By playing SimCity, of course. Lederberg was only a virtual mayor—she'd never have the chance to take the reins of the real city.

In the lead up to the 1990 Democratic primary election in Providence, five mayoral candidates competed against each other in the then-brand-new game. The experiment was set up by Joseph Braude, a freelancer for the Providence Journal who was only 15 years old at the time. Little did Lederberg know that the article Braude would write, which included details about her simulated incompetence, would hurt her with real voters.

Simcity by night. (Flickr/haljackey)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a cyclist on the streets of Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.
    Equity

    Can Historic Preservation Cool Down a Hot Neighborhood?

    The new plan to landmark Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood aims to protect more than just buildings: It’s designed to curb gentrification.

  2. Rows of machinery with long blue tubes and pipes seen at a water desalination plant.
    Environment

    A Water-Stressed World Turns to Desalination

    Desalination is increasingly being used to provide drinking water around the globe. But it remains expensive and creates its own environmental problems.

  3. A cat lays flat on a bench at a park on the outskirts of Tokyo.
    Life

    Why Don't Americans Use Their Parks at Night?

    Most cities aren’t fond of letting people use parks after dark. But there are good lifestyle, environmental, and safety reasons to reconsider.

  4. Equity

    Pete Buttigieg’s Crash Course in Crisis

    For all those nationally who’ve been dazzled by the mayor, the voters of South Bend aren’t satisfied with his response to a fatal police shooting last week.

  5. Design

    What Cities Can Do to Help Birds and Bees Survive

    Pollinators—the wildlife that shuffle pollen between flowers—are being decimated. But they may still thrive with enough help from urban humans.

×