Also: Decriminalizing fare evasion, and the real link between immigration and crime.
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What We’re Following
Acronym-byism: The nefarious NIMBY is now a stock character in today’s urban crisis, with the rallying cry of “not in my back yard” rising as an almost inevitable refrain against any neighborhood change. Some urban reformers have responded by saying we need to flip the negative N into an enthusiastic Yes for development, giving rise to a so-called YIMBY movement. But there may be another part of the acronym that deserves more scrutiny: the BY.
Every so often a project will literally impact someone’s backyard, but more often it’s a metaphor for a much wider area of people’s day-to-day lives. You might even call it a neighborhood. Today on CityLab, historical geographer Garrett Dash Nelson argues that the geographic limits of the area someone cares about are crucial to the political question of who gets to make decisions—and where a “back yard” begins and ends switches when it suits people’s self-interests. Read his perspective: How NIMBYs Made “Back Yard” Mean “Entire Neighborhood”
More on CityLab
On Tuesday, the New York Times ran an obituary for Jacqueline Steiner, who died last month at 94. Steiner wrote the folk song, “M.T.A.,” which tells a cautionary tale about a man named Charlie who gets stuck on Boston’s subway system because he was short by a nickel for a transfer fare.
The song itself has had many lives: Steiner wrote it as a campaign song in 1949 for a mayoral candidate who opposed a fare increase. Then, the folk band Kingston Trio reworked the song into a number one hit in 1959 and it became a kind of unofficial Boston anthem. Finally, things came full circle in 2004, when Boston switched from subway tokens to an automated fare card, the CharlieCard. (The Times says then-Governor Mitt Romney “belted out the song” with Kingston Trio at CharlieCard’s launch ceremony. If you have any recorded evidence of that, please let us know!) In fact, the city’s affinity for the song factored into the system’s makeover, as the designers behind “the T” told CityLab’s Mark Byrnes last year.
What We’re Reading
Can Chicago’s Lincoln Yards, a neighborhood built from scratch, serve the whole city? (Curbed)
Traffic deaths rose, then fell, after three states legalized pot (The Verge)
The domestication of the garage (Places Journal)
Corruption scandals play out in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia (New York Times)