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.
"Climate Change Takes a Village," Kate Sheppard, The Huffington Post
It's a Wednesday morning in late August, the first day of classes at the Shishmaref School. The doors of the pale blue building haven't opened yet, and the new principal is hurriedly buttering toast in the kitchen for the students’ breakfasts. Teachers are scrambling to make last-minute adjustments to their classrooms, while anxious kids, ranging from pre-K students through high schoolers, wait on the porch, their jackets zipped against the chill of the early-morning air. It's all so incredibly normal, you might not know that, just a few years ago, no one thought Shishmaref would be here anymore.
The remote village of 563 people is located 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle, flanked by the Chukchi Sea to the north and an inlet to the south, and it sits atop rapidly melting permafrost. In the last decades, the island's shores have been eroding into the sea, falling off in giant chunks whenever a big storm hits.
The residents of Shishmaref, most of whom are Alaska Native Inupiaq people, have tried to counter these problems, moving houses away from the cliffs and constructing barriers along the northern shore to try to turn back the waves. But in July 2002, looking at the long-term reality facing the island, they voted to pack up and move the town elsewhere.
Relocation has proven much more difficult than that single vote, however. And 12 years later, Shishmaref is still here, ready to begin another school year.
"Oakland Wants You to Stop Calling It the 'Next Brooklyn,'" Susie Cagle, Next City
Gentrification: We think we know it when we see it. Pour-over organic coffee, double-wide designer strollers, gluten-free options. Millennials and their unrelenting desire to live and work in cities that pushes out longtime residents. A tide rising, cresting and washing over. An act of nature.
These demographic and economic shifts in cities aren’t the result of organic social and cultural trends; the changes are wrought by decades of investment and public policy choices, and inextricably bound to histories of racism, exclusionary land use policies and exploitative banking processes that left certain communities vulnerable to a steamroller of new investment.
“If you don’t know what the problem is you definitely can’t stop being a part of it, and I think a lot of people don’t know what the problem is,” says DeeDee Serendipity, a native of Oakland who now owns a salon in the city.
"Inside Beijing's Airpocalypse—A City Made "Almost Uninhabitable" By Pollution," Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian
The scene could be straight from a science-fiction film: a vision of everyday life, but with one jarring difference that makes you realise you’re on another planet, or in a distant future era.
A sports class is in full swing on the outskirts of Beijing. Herds of children charge after a football on an artificial pitch, criss-crossed with colourful markings and illuminated in high definition by the glare of bright white floodlights. It all seems normal enough – except for the fact that this familiar playground scene is taking place beneath a gigantic inflatable dome.
“It’s a bit of a change having to go through an airlock on the way to class,” says Travis Washko, director of sports at the British School of Beijing. “But the kids love it, and parents can now rest assured their children are playing in a safe environment.”
The reason for the dome becomes apparent when you step outside. A grey blanket hangs in the sky, swamping the surroundings in a de-saturated haze and almost obscuring the buildings across the street. A red flag hangs above the school’s main entrance to warn it’s a no-go day: stay indoors at all costs. The airpocalypse has arrived.
"Seattle's Unbelievable Transportation Megaproject Fustercluck," David Roberts, Grist
Last week, I mentioned in passing that Seattle is in the midst of a full-spectrum transportation fustercluck. It has since come to my attention that some Grist readers are unfamiliar with the fustercluck in question, even though it recently made The New York Times and NPR.
This cries out for remedy. A tragicomic infrastructure own goal like this deserves wider exposure. Perhaps some lessons can be learned. Or you can just point and laugh.
“Ha ha, Seattle,” you can say. “What a fustercluck.”
We are currently at a crucial decision point in the story. There’s still time for Seattle leaders to change course, though it looks unlikely. But first, some history.
"Closed for Murder: NJ City Tries to Stem Crime By Imposing Business Curfew," Arthur Holland Michel, Al Jazeera America
In 1791, Alexander Hamilton and a consortium of well-heeled entrepreneurs dreamed up a plan to build a modern industrial city at the Great Falls on the Passaic River, in northern New Jersey. Through the 19th century, Paterson, America’s first planned city, became an exemplar of the successful industrial metropolis, home to hundreds of textile plants. But in an all-too-familiar story, Silk City, as it came to be known, had a spectacular fall from grace in the second half of the 20th century. The textile plants and the riches they generated are now history. Racked by high poverty, a skyrocketing foreclosure rate and ongoing violence, it feels like a city on the edge.
The past year has been a particularly grisly one for the city of 146,000, which is just 13 miles from Manhattan. On the evening of July 4, 12-year-old Genesis Rincon was struck and killed by a stray bullet while riding a scooter in the city’s 4th Ward. The incident prompted approximately 300 Patersonians to march on city hall. On Sept. 15, a 27-year-old man, Antoine Garris, was shot and killed while intervening in an argument at Moya Bar-Liquors, on 10th Ave. Five days later, several men in Paterson’s 1st Ward opened fire on a crowd of teenagers, killing 15-year-old Nazerah Bugg and wounding another girl. By the end of that week, the city’s death toll in 2014 had already exceeded that for all of 2013.
Paterson’s police force, which was cut by a third in 2011 due to budgetary shortfall, is unable to contain so much violence. “I will tell you that we are undermanned,” said Police Director Jerry Speziale, a decorated officer who was once shot in the line of duty, over the din of recruits exercising in a gymnasium at the Essex County Policy Academy. “We have to think outside of the box.”
And so, this past summer, amid the near-weekly reports of fatal violent incidents, Paterson’s City Council approved an unusual policy that it hopes will dramatically cut violence without the city’s having to significantly expand policing: a curfew — not for people, but for businesses.