Also: Amazon’s “eyes on the street,” and mapping the urban tree canopy.

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What We’re Following

“Ah, suburbia, land of the bland. White-picket-fenced realm of white-bread people and cookie-cutter housing. That’s still the stereotype that persists in how many of us think about and portray these much-maligned spaces surrounding cities. But if there was once some truth to it, there certainly isn’t today.

“In the past several years, a much more complex picture has emerged—one of Asian and Latino ‘ethnoburbs,’ rising suburban poverty, and Baby Boomers stuck in their split-levels. And 2018 really drove home the lesson that, when Americans say they live in the suburbs, the suburbias they describe are vastly different kinds of places.

“A century and a half after Frederick Law Olmsted laid out one of the first planned American suburbs in Riverside, Illinois, and seven decades after the builders Levitt & Sons broke ground on the ur-tract ’burb of Levittown, New York, we haven’t fully mapped the contours of modern suburbia—not just who lives there and why, but the role that suburbs play in politics and society.”

Today on CityLab, Amanda Kolson Hurley explains how the old narrative of city and suburb died in 2018.


More on CityLab

The Fears Behind Amazon’s ‘Eyes on the Street’

The tech company’s proposed facial-recognition doorbell could be a civil libertarian’s nightmare.

Tanvi Misra

Every Tree in the City, Mapped

Researchers at Descartes Labs are using artificial intelligence to make a better map of the urban tree canopy.

Linda Poon

A Documentary Turns Its Lens to Baltimore’s Stoops and Cop Cars

Filmed in the years surrounding the killing of Freddie Gray, Marilyn Ness’s Charm City searches for signs of progress amidst pervasive pain and despair.

Ezra Haber Glenn

Who Wins When Cash Is No Longer King?

It won’t be the poor.

Sidney Fussell

Once Again, a Ban on Matatus in the Nairobi City Center Has Failed

This month, Nairobi tried to ban matatus from the city center. As the privately owned busses are many Kenyans’ only travel option, the ban lasted only a day.

Patrick Gathara


What We’re Reading

The case against making a city “beautiful” (Catapult)

New Orleans turns its last public school into a charter school (Big Easy Magazine)

The hidden history of D.C.’s alleyways (DCist)

What if the National Weather Service really shut down? (Forbes)

“Our deepest anxieties about the future of where we live are embodied in other cities — in Portlandification, Brooklynification, Manhattanization.” (New York Times)


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