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 past seven days.
“Ringing in the New Year,” Cailey Rizzo, Mashable
NEW YORK CITY — Locals may keep their distance, but the Big Apple's New Year’s Eve ball drop is as popular as ever.
In 1969, Jimmy Glenn opened his bar, Jimmy’s Corner, half a block from the cacophony of Times Square.
“I liked the spot,” Glenn says. “I had a gym on 42nd street, Times Square Boxing Club, and I happened to be walking round the block and see this place. I called the landlord and they said come on up and they rented it to me. And here I am, 45 years later.”
The dive bar — a very long, very narrow room on 44th St. with $3 pints of beer and framed photographs of boxers — fills up quickly on a normal night. On New Year’s Eve, getting in is practically impossible. But it’s different now than it used to be.
“In the 80s and 90s,” Glenn says, “everybody would come. There was no certain crowd — whatever got here first, that’s who got in.”
“In Downtrodden San Bernardino, Immigrants Find a Place to Start,” Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times
This year, Jorge Alamilla, a father of six, has sandblasted rust out of oxygen cylinders in Riverside. He has driven a dump truck in San Dimas. He spent part of December on a three-week haul driving for FedEx around the nation, praying that this job would last.
The Alamillas live in a part of San Bernardino where only the younger children bother to hit the floor when they hear gunfire. Where, long before the slaughter at the nearby Inland Regional Center, Jorge’s wife, Yvonne, wouldn’t let them play unattended outside.
With the lowest median income of any city its size in the state, San Bernardino has become one of the cheapest places to live in urban Southern California. That has given immigrant families like the Alamillas an affordable place they hope will launch their children into America’s middle class.
The terror attack this month drew the president and throngs of national media to a city well known for its failings. Some residents took that tragedy as a cue to remind one another on social media that run-of-the-mill shootings and robberies continue at an alarming rate.
“Dear Architects: Sound Matters,” Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times
We talk about how cities and buildings look. We call places landmarks or eyesores. But we rarely talk about how architecture sounds, aside from when a building or room is noisy.
The spaces we design and inhabit all have distinctive sounds. The reading rooms at the New York Public Library have an overlay of rich sound. Your office may be a big room in a glass building with rows of cubicles where people stare into computer screens.
It may be sealed off from the outside, and you may think it is quiet.
“Why Delhi's Homeless Prefer to Sleep in the Freezing Cold Than in Government Shelters,” Harsh Mander, Scroll.in
Winter is upon us once more. Pollution, smog and plunging temperatures transmute sleeping into a formidable daily challenge for the most dispossessed of city residents – people without homes. The more compassionate among us are stirred briefly each year about the predicament of the homeless forced to sleep in the biting cold. The Delhi government has undertaken a range of steps to aid the homeless in winter months after it was moved to action by years of civic mobilisation, judicial activism and occasional media attention.
The state government has established 218 homeless shelters in Delhi with a capacity of over 17,000 persons. However, it is confronted by a conundrum that it finds difficult to understand. At least half the capacity of the shelters lies unutilised even on the coldest nights, although tens of thousands of homeless people battle the elements without a roof over their heads. For every homeless person who sleeps in a shelter in the city, there are an estimated 15 who still sleep out in the open.
Unwilling to brook what it regards to be the stubborn and irrational resistance of homeless persons to sleep in shelters, the Delhi government this winter has launched what it describes as a massive “rescue” mission. Every winter night, officials, policemen with long thick sticks, and NGO workers scour the streets for homeless people. On locating them, they swoop down and forcefully push them into in the nearest homeless shelter.
Choosing the streets
I have seen long lines of gloomy bedraggled homeless men and women unwillingly coerced into shelters, warily eyeing policemen standing behind them with long rods. The state government has also proudly launched an app, using which any citizen who spots a homeless person sleeping in the open is invited to take a picture of the person with the details of his or her location, and it is promised that officials would expeditiously “rescue” that person by coercing him or her into the shelters.
“A Lonely Road,” Chico Harlan, The Washington Post
She set off on the latest day of job hunting wearing tiny star-shaped earrings that belonged to her 18-month-old daughter and frayed $6 shoes from Walmart that were the more comfortable of her two pairs. In her backpack she had stashed a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, hand sanitizer for the bus and pocket change for printing résumés at the public library. She carried a spiral notebook with a handwritten list of job openings that she’d titled her “Plan of Action for the Week.”
It had been 20 months since Lauren Scott lost her apartment and six months since she lost her car and 10 weeks since she washed up at a homeless shelter in this suburb south of Atlanta with no money and no job. Her daughter, Za’Niyah, had already lived in seven places, and Scott feared that her child would soon grow old enough to permanently remember the chaos. So shortly after sunrise, she packed Za’Niyah into a day-care bus that picked up the shelter’s children, walked to the closest bus station and used her phone to find directions to the first of the companies on her list, an industrial site that would have been 27 minutes away by car.
She squinted, with a light sigh, at the public transit curlicue she was about to make through Atlanta:
Sixty-nine stops on a bus;
a nine-minute train ride;
an additional 49 stops on a bus;
a quarter-mile walk.