Linda Poon is a staff writer at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.
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“Millennials Will Live in Cities Unlike Anything We've Ever Seen Before,” Alissa Walker, Gizmodo
It’s actually hard to know what to believe about millennials, the Americans born after 1980 who make up the largest generation in history. Every week there’s a new ground-shattering revelation about their lifestyles—but the most conflicting reports have to do with where they live.
Over the last few years, across the country—around the world, too—people of all ages, including millennials, have been moving into cities at an astonishing rate. Now more than half of the world’s population is urban. So here’s the big question: Are today’s 20- and 30-somethings really going to live more urban lifestyles than Gen Xers or Boomers? Or are they going to eventually vacate cities for the ‘burbs, just like every generation before them?
Then came some interesting data, pegged to the release of 2014 Census information this spring: Millennials have indeed started moving out of big city downtowns—but not necessarily in favor of a quiet rural or suburban life.
“How Railroads, Highways, and Other Man-Made Lines Racially Divide America’s Cities,” Emily Badger and Darla Cameron, The Washington Post
Like many metaphors, "the other side of the tracks" was originally a literal epithet. Blacks were often historically restricted to neighborhoods separated from whites by railroads, turning the tracks into iron barriers of race and class.
In many cities, these dividing lines persist to this day — a reflection of decades of discriminatory policies and racism, but also of the power of infrastructure itself to segregate.
Look at racial maps of many American cities, and stark boundaries between neighboring black and white communities frequently denote an impassable railroad or highway, or a historically uncrossable avenue. Infrastructure has long played this role: reinforcing unspoken divides, walling off communities, containing their expansion, physically isolating them from schools or parks or neighbors nearby.
“You Just Got Out of Prison. Now What?” Jon Mooallem, The New York Times
Two men were sitting in a parked car, waiting to pick someone up. Carlos Cervantes was in the driver’s seat. He was 30, with glassy green eyes — quiet by nature, but with a loaded, restrained intensity about him. He had picked up Roby So at home in Los Angeles around 3 o’clock that morning, and they’d made it here, to this empty parking lot in front of the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, on the outskirts of San Diego, just after 6. Now, the sun was rising over the bare, brown mountains in the windshield. A hummingbird zipped around an air-conditioning unit outside. Already, they’d been waiting close to an hour.
Roby was three years older than Carlos but carried himself like a large and joyful child. He was hungry. He wanted biscuits and gravy and was still laughing about how, earlier, he caught himself telling Carlos that, unfortunately, he’d have to wait until tomorrow for biscuits and gravy, because today was Monday, and Monday was pancakes day. Part of his brain still tracked his old prison breakfast menu. ‘‘Why do I still know these things, man?’’ Roby said. ‘‘It’s been four years. I was supposed to. … ’’ His voice trailed off, so Carlos finished his sentence: ‘‘Delete.’’
“The Renewed Debate Over How Cities Interact With Undocumented Immigrants,” Harry Bruinius, TakePart
Since the 1980s, many U.S. cities, including San Francisco, have instituted “sanctuary” policies that prevent city workers from helping federal immigration officials identify and possibly deport people without immigration papers.
On weekend nights, as downtown streets go quiet, the depths of Wacker Drive begin to screech and whine.
Down two levels from the usual street traffic, in a hidden spot near the city pound, cars rev and peel across a stretch of asphalt between Field Boulevard and Stetson Avenue.
Crowds cheer as a man hangs out a car window, shooting video while the driver speeds in circles. A Mustang and a Lexus circle in concert with one another with the grace and synchronization of ice skaters. A sedan with a pizza sign on its side slides past. More cheers.
These are the drivers of lower Lower Wacker Drive, a forgotten road that has become a subterranean bazaar for teenagers and 20-somethings brought together by their love of cars.