Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fill in the blank

I love this:
I took a screen grab to emphasize the empty space as seen in orange-vision. The link to the Bloomberg “opinion” column is here. Kargo’s takedown of Schoen is here.

As much as I hate to mess with the essential (and essentially true) simplicity of DH’s post, I do have to say that Mayor Mike does make one small point:

[There is a] need for a new urban agenda. More than 65 percent of Americans now live in urban areas — our nation’s economic engines. But you would never know that listening to the presidential candidates. At a time when our national economy is sputtering, to say the least, what are we doing to fuel job growth in our cities, and to revive cities that have never fully recovered from the manufacturing losses of recent decades?

I have argued for quite some time that our agrarian mythos combined with the inherently undemocratic structure of our bicameral national legislature and the Electoral College have made US domestic policy inherently anti-urban. And unless some of our national electeds acknowledge this bias and lead us to a new understanding, the problem will not get fixed.

Urban centers—cities—are the engines of our 21st Century economy, and, no less important, the lifeblood of our culture. However, anyone who has had to live through and live with Mayor Bloomberg’s brand of urban renewal (or “revitalization,” as he like to call it) should know that what Mike has in mind could undermine that reality on both counts.

To Bloomberg, revitalization means lots of big real estate developments wherever a properly connected developer wants to put them. We can thank Mayor Mike for the Atlantic Yards boondoggle. We can thank him for a spate of new buildings named “Trump,” including an illegal 46-story residential “condo-hotel” in SoHo that has already taken one life (and threatens to overwhelm the neighborhood, and set a precedent for building permit loopholes that will likely destroy many others).

In fact, we can thank our “non-partisan” businessman mayor’s renewal strategy for a phenomenal rise in construction deaths—up 87% from 2005 to 2006—and serious high-rise accidents—up 83% last year.

And what—who—is all of this for? For our cities? For the workers that make those economic engines hum? For the artists of all stripes that invigorate our culture? For the services that support all of them?

No. What we have, and will have more of, thanks to Michael Bloomberg’s vision, are legions of cheaply, hastily constructed office towers and luxury condominium high-rises. The glut of office space in the city is worsened; the shortage of truly affordable housing is not helped. Not in the least.

Bloomberg’s vision is that of an ephemeral city, one that offers a patina of urbanity and an easily digestible dose of culture to wealthy and well-behaved class of transients—just passing through on their way to suburban dotage. That is not my idea of “vital.”

So, while the newly-minted non-candidate Bloomberg is right to call for a lively national discussion about the future of our cities, know that when it comes to solutions—bipartisan, nonpartisan, post-partisan, or whatever—Mayor Mike is dead wrong.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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