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.
Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.
“Welcome to Disturbia,” Amanda Kolson Hurley, Curbed
Picture a suburban housewife of the 1950s. Her name is Mrs. John Drone (Mary), and she lives in Rolling Knolls Estates, a new development of what the salesman calls "California Cape Cod Ramblers" on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. Whatever knolls might have rolled gently over the land at one time have been flattened for muddy streets of two-bedroom houses, named after famous conflicts of World War II.
One rainy morning on Bataan Boulevard, Mary hangs her washing on a clothesline in the living room and knocks her shin on her son’s tricycle. Pain shoots up her leg and she bursts into tears. Then the front door blows open, and she starts shouting:
‘Watch out, can’t you see the wash is up? You’re getting the wash all dirty.’ Mary very nearly screamed.
‘I’m sorry dear,’ a familiar, monotonous voice said.
‘Oh, it’s you,’ Mary said.
And it was. John Drone, master of all he surveyed, had returned to his castle and to the bosom of his admiring family. He closed the door.
“All the Comforts of Home,” Mark Lamster, Dallas News
From the moment a call comes in, a buzzer followed by an automated dispatch voice with details of an emergency and its location, it takes around 30 seconds for the four-man crew of Station 27 to get out the door, sirens blaring. It’s a quick escape, and that’s by design. The station is a place they call home, but one firefighters need to leave in a hurry.
“One thing people don’t understand is that this is our house,” says Lt. Nelson Rossy, a 21-year veteran of Dallas Fire-Rescue who now supervises its building projects. “We’re the only city building that operates the way we do.” Indeed, a fire station is unique among public buildings in that it is a place not just to work but to cook, eat, sleep (albeit lightly), work out, hang out, read, watch television, argue about the Cowboys and play the occasional game of pingpong.
“Can Jerryon Stevens Be Saved?” Elly Fishman, Chicago Magazine
It’s just after 9:30 on a Thursday morning, two weeks into the new year, and Jerryon Stevens slides quietly onto a long wooden bench in the waiting area outside courtroom 4 at the juvenile courthouse on Hamilton Avenue. The letter sent by the Cook County Circuit Court to the 16-year-old’s house in Humboldt Park stated that today’s session would begin promptly at 9 a.m. Jerryon is late, but he’s among the first to arrive.
Dressed in crisp khakis, a gray sweatshirt, and a gold-stud-emblazoned jacket too big for his slender frame, Jerryon—or Mank, as his friends and family call him—pulls out his iPhone, but service is spotty, so he tucks it back into his pocket. His mother isn’t here today because she’s driving his older brother to a college interview at Northern Illinois University. His father isn’t here because—well, because he hasn’t been around much since Jerryon was little. On this day, the Orr Academy High School sophomore is accompanied only by his grandmother Jackie Hodges and a 17-year-old female cousin.
“In a Resurrected Skate Palace Outside DC, Roller Skating Is Still Alive—And It’s Awesome,” Talia Mindich, Washingtonian
Ride out just beyond the edge of Southeast DC, past Naylor Road on the Green Line and River of Life Church, and you’ll come upon Temple Hills Skate Palace. Outside, the glittering light from its ten-foot chandeliers pours out the windows into the parking lot. Inside, throngs of skaters dip, sway, and spin to slow rhythms, masters of a pursuit forgotten.
Skating had its heyday in Washington in the 1970s, when everyone used to meet at “Kalorama Road”—the National Roller Skating Rink at 17th and Kalorama in Adams Morgan. African-Americans who had honed their style on paved streets and in church basements during the days of segregation now glided to pipe-organ music on the dusty public rink, and legends were born in skate clubs like the Supreme Wheelers and Midnight Rollers. In a city of racial unrest and violence, skating was an escape.
“Here’s Why Atlanta Is One of the Worst Places to Be An Undocumented Immigrant,” Elise Foley, Huffington Post
ATLANTA — After immigration agents picked up 336 undocumented immigrants — many of them Central American teenagers who came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors — in a series of raids earlier this year, advocates sprung into action. They started petitions and called federal authorities. They emailed reporters like me.
There was a pattern in these emails: Many of the kids picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement were snagged in Atlanta.
More than a third of the people detained under what the government calls Operation Border Guardian were from the Atlanta area, more than any other ICE jurisdiction.
There’s a reason for this. Immigration law doesn’t vary from state to state or court to court. But immigrants’ odds do, and by the numbers, Atlanta is one of the worst places in the country to be an undocumented immigrant hoping to avoid deportation. Justice Department-appointed judges in that court denied asylum 98 percent of the time in the 2015 fiscal year, the highest rate of any immigration court that heard more than five cases. Eighty-eight percent of cases that went before Atlanta immigration courts ended with a removal order. That’s way over the national average: In the country as a whole, immigration judges denied about 52 percent of asylum claims, and 69 percent of cases resulted in a deportation order.