A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we’ve come across in the past seven days.
“2017: The Year of the Renter,” The New York Times
New York renters would be the first to tell you that rents go in only one direction: up. But after a long and relentless climb to historic highs, the momentum has stalled.
With renters unwilling, or unable, to pay ever higher sums, rents have largely flatlined. And it seems we have come to the year of the renter’s market.
In Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, inventories and vacancies are up, and landlords are offering new tenants discounts, like several months of free rent and no broker’s fee. In the Bronx and Staten Island, rents are holding steady because those boroughs did not experience the same rapid rent escalations or volume of new development. But that could change when new rental buildings open in both boroughs this year and in 2018.
“The Sanctuary Solution,” Nick Tabor, Jacobin
On Donald Trump’s long list of bête noires, “sanctuary cities” are near the top. And he’s promised to act on his ire.
In a major immigration speech in August, the president-elect vowed to withhold all federal funding from cities and states that don’t actively particulate in deportation campaigns. Securing their compliance is the only way Trump can hope to carry out his campaign plank of “immediately” expelling up to 3 million immigrants — at least short of massively expanding the federal immigration agency, which only has about six thousand employees.
If Trump gets his way, not only will cities have to turn over records that detail their residents’ immigration statuses (such as the municipal IDs that New York started issuing last year, or the IDs San Francisco introduced in 2009), but they could even be required to hold people without warrants or formal charges on the federal government’s behalf — or risk losing critical revenue.
“When Residents Take Ownership, a Mobile Home Community Thrives,” Daniel Zwerdling, NPR
If you had strolled one Saturday afternoon through the Park Plaza neighborhood in Fridley, Minn., you might have thought you were at just another block party. The residents were milling around a picnic buffet on folding tables on the street in front of their houses and the American flag. Kids were tossing beanbags and shouting. Neighbors were delivering Jell-O and marshmallow salad, and a pot of pork, cilantro and beans.
But this was not an ordinary picnic. Residents were celebrating the fifth anniversary of a major achievement that could inspire similar communities across the country: The day they began to take more control of their lives.
Park Plaza is a mobile home park, or what industry calls a manufactured housing community. Five years ago, the residents banded together, formed a nonprofit co-op and bought their entire neighborhood from the company that owned it. Today, these residents exert democratic control over almost 9 acres of prime suburbs, with 80 manufactured houses sited on them.
“From Bittersweet Childhoods to ‘Moonlight,’” Nikole Hannah Jones, The New York Times
It had just finished raining, in that swift and furious Miami way, and the director Barry Jenkins and the playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney were heading through the Liberty Square housing projects.
The two men strolled past crumpled snack wrappers and empty Olde English beer cans, broken toys and charcoal-colored rat traps. Then Mr. Jenkins stepped onto the patchy grass of the courtyard that sits between a grouping of desperate-looking buildings, low-slung and austere, the type of stingy architecture we’ve come to equate with housing for the poor. He stopped, raised his arms and spread them wide.
“This is the world of ‘Moonlight,’” he said, smiling, referring to their widely acclaimed film. “It’s beautiful, right? When the sun comes out, it just pops.”
Mr. McCraney nodded. “It is the confluence of madness and urban blight,” he said. “Yet, it is incredibly beautiful. It is still a neighborhood.”
“Death On the Road: Can Mumbai Shed its Reputation as the ‘Car Crash Capital’?” Video Doshi, The Guardian
For 30 minutes after she was hit, Archana Pandya lay bleeding on a road in the busy Mumbai suburb of Goregaon. The 22-year-old, who had just started a new job, was on her way home from work when she was the victim of a hit-and-run. She died of her injuries. “There were a lot of people there, and it happened right opposite a police station, but no one came forward to help,” says her brother Siddharth Pandya. “It’s not the roads; in India, it’s the people that are unsafe.”
Pandya was one of 586 people killed in road accidents in Mumbai in 2015, the equivalent of one death every 15 hours. Another 2,034 were seriously injured. The long response times of ambulances and emergency vehicles, coupled with the unwillingness of bystanders to help road victims for fear of being detained by police and hospitals, contribute to slow, painful deaths for hundreds of people every year. As a result, Mumbai – a city with roughly the same number of cars as London, but more than four times the number of road fatalities – has become known as India’s “crash capital”. In 2015 there were 23,468 recorded traffic collisions: the highest in the country.
The city’s urban geography has helped breed a culture of reckless driving. Cars zigzag through dense traffic jams, cutting lanes, overtaking from the left or zipping past red lights. Drivers know that the penalties are small and the chances of getting caught are low. Many scoff at the idea of wearing a seatbelt, while others casually take phone calls and answer text messages as they navigate through the maze of cars.