Also: The car loan trap, and a visual history of the public library.

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What We’re Following

Queens gambit: The arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, was supposed to overhaul the area’s real estate scene. A sleepy condo market became the object of bidding wars, even if other New Yorkers greeted the prospect of rising rents with terror. But now that Amazon is breaking off its engagement with New York, the buying frenzy has evaporated. Some residents think Queens dodged a bullet, fearing that Amazon would have driven out longtime residents in favor of moneyed techies. Instead, Long Island City faces a different problem: the status quo.

Before Amazon kicked off a gold rush, Queens was marked by an oversupply of luxury condos and a shortage of affordable housing, while the city as a whole has struggled to keep up with demand for places to live. With the company’s departure, even affordable housing projects tabled for the HQ2 deal may no longer be a possibility. CityLab’s Kriston Capps has the story: Without Amazon HQ2, what happens to housing in Queens?

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Subprime Auto Loans Are Turning Car Ownership Into a Trap

A record 7 million Americans are three months late on their car payments, revealing what could be cracks in the U.S. economy.

Laura Bliss

How Natural Disasters Can Spur Gentrification

New Orleans neighborhoods that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were more likely to gentrify over the following 10 years, researchers find.

Richard Florida

The Town Where Retirees Can’t Retire

In fast-aging pockets of rural America, older residents are going back to work. But not always because they need the money.

Joe Eaton

Capturing Black Bottom, a Detroit Neighborhood Lost to Urban Renewal

“Black Bottom Street View,” now exhibiting at the Detroit Public Library, thoughtfully displays old images of the historic African American neighborhood in its final days.

Amy Crawford

I Answered Strangers’ Philosophical Questions on the Street

An “Ask a Philosopher” booth in New York City attracted a surprising number of people with deep, meaningful questions that had long gone unanswered.

Lee McIntyre


Check It Out

(Ariel Aberg-Riger)

Public libraries are among the last free places in the U.S. that openly cater to the needs of just about everyone who walks through the doors, whether they’re toddlers, teens, the elderly, new parents, students, and the homeless. But it hasn’t always been this way: They began in the 1700s as clubs accessed almost exclusively by wealthy white men.

By the turn of the 20th century, women’s clubs were the driving force of America’s boom in public libraries. Later, civil rights organizations fought to outlaw discrimination of “public accommodations” like libraries. By the late 20th century, libraries re-examined and expanded their mission, as highlighted in the 1990 quote above from the America Library Association. Today on CityLab, visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger shares the story of how America’s public libraries came to be.


What We’re Reading

American segregation, mapped at day and night (Vox)

Driverless cars will transform cities? One already has: the elevator (Forbes)

Why your apps can find you, but 911 can’t (Wall Street Journal)

The fight for justice takes its toll on Ferguson activists (New York Review of Books)


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