A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.
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"Kid Un-friendly Streets," Erin Brodwin, Gotham Gazette
Walking down the street shouldn't mean risking your life. But that is the case at this Brooklyn intersection. Fifteen-ton buses jockey for position with cars, taxis, and dollar vans whose drivers speed down the boulevard hollering boasts of hasty trips for time-strapped travelers. People emerging from the subway crisscross the street at random; the white lines of multiple crosswalks are barely visible.
Children dash throughout the scene: little ones from the daycare center dwarfed by their backpacks run from corner to corner while teenagers in sneakers dart through traffic. A walk signal doesn't protect one child from a near miss when an aggressive driver in a white SUV makes a right turn.
This is Avenue H and Nostrand Avenue on a weekday afternoon. It's one of New York City's most dangerous intersections for children. Within a one-block radius of this urban hive nearly 50 young people under age 17 were hit and injured by vehicles in a seven-year period. Three died. In the two police precincts that cover the area, more than 900 kids were hurt and ten were killed by motorists. And this is not the city's only hotspot for child pedestrian injuries.
New York City drivers hit and injured more than 15,000 children between 2005 and 2012, according to a Gotham Gazette analysis of federal data. And a lot of people, even police officers and traffic safety advocates, aren't aware of the problem.
"The City That Mining Ate," Arthur Holland Michael, MOTHERBOARD
When we stopped in La Oroya, a ribbon of a town in a deep valley in the high Peruvian Sierra, I was hungry. The car trip had been long and winding, and we still had a ways to go. At these altitudes, there isn’t a lot of really good stuff to eat, except for trout. I wanted to eat one. As we walked into a restaurant, we passed a row of shiny new Toyota pick-ups, the de-facto mode of transportation for the engineers who maintain the gigantic mining operations in the area. My trout was delicious. It had golden, crispy skin and moist pink flesh and tasted extremely fresh. It was also probably laced with toxic chemicals.
La Oroya is widely considered to be one of the most polluted places on the face of our fair earth. The Blacksmith Institute, a New York-based environmental group, listed it in their top 10. A 2005 study found that 97 percent of children under six here have toxic levels of lead in their blood. The valley was, at one time, so polluted that the hills on either side are now a ghostly, bleached white.
The cause of this pollution is a 92-year-old smelter and metallurgic complex now owned by Doe Run Peru, a subsidiary of US mining company Doe Run. Amid a $600 million debt and slumping metals prices, the place is said to be up for sale. When it's operating, the smelter—the largest polymetallic smelter in the Americas—can process 122,000 tons of lead each year, and 43,000 tons of zinc.
This metal gets packed into trains, which pass along the highest railway in the Americas, and will head down to the port of Callao, to be shipped out all over the world and put into things like your iPhone. Doe Run has invested in emission control systems, water treatment plants and health programs, community development and job-training programs. But La Oroya is saddled with decades of heavy metal contamination, some of which ultimately ends up in the trout and, much more crucially, the humans who live here.
"This Riveting 1830s Temperance Map Warned Against the Dangers of 'Beer Lake,'" Susan Schulten, The New Republic
In the archives of the American Antiquarian Society lies a strange and captivating map with an even more unlikely backstory. The map dates to 1838, though this copy was printed five years later. At first glance it looks as if it depicts a physical place, its islands and topography rendered with care. Closer inspection, however, reveals that this map records no actual location. Instead, it’s an allegory of temperance, framed as a journey through our animal appetites. Originally drawn by a temperance activist from the Northeast identified only as “C. Wiltberger,” the map found a following halfway around the world when the engraved plate was sailed to a small school run by missionaries on the island of Maui. The map asks each one of us: are you on the road to salvation or damnation?
The map’s second life was courtesy of Lorrin Andrews, a Connecticut carpenter turned missionary. Andrews was among the first generation sent to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1820s, and along with his Christian convictions he brought a determination to educate the young men of the island through a school built near Lahaina in 1831 (one could certainly imagine rougher assignments!).
Andrews’ mission work was in some ways a case of cultural imperialism, a Christian missionary exporting ideals of self-control and comportment to a benighted society. But there were twists, not least of which is that he and his fellow missionaries were the first to codify and print the phonetic alphabet for the Hawaiian language. They did this by bringing several hand presses to the islands, which by 1838 had printed 100 million pages of text in Hawaiian and nearly as many in English (including the first Hawaiian newspaper and the first English language newspaper west of the Rocky Mountains).
Andrews was also uncommon in insisting that his students—mostly grown men with families—learn to make maps, which he considered as essential to literacy as learning to read and write. ...
"A Brief History of Buildings That Spin," Anthony Paletta, Gizmodo
It wasn't just the recipes that were faddish. The 1960s were halcyon times for restaurant experiences that hold almost no appeal today, from the dine-o-mat to the drive-in diner. But one curious product of this era had true staying power: the revolving restaurant.
These spinning buildings are an institution that's enjoyed a surprisingly long life—and a recent rebirth across cities in Asia and the Middle East. So where, and when, did it all begin?
The revolving restaurant addressed some apparently primal desire to dine at a table while moving; if you couldn't walk and chew gum, you could rotate and eat Gulf Prawns. It seems garishly and unmistakably American—after all, it received its clearest early outline via the fertile mind of Norman Bel Geddes...