Monday, January 6, 2014

Green Pastures for Whom?

"Urban living patterns have reasserted themselves in most large American cities and some suburbs as well. Design experiments are proliferating. Which ones will lead to happier lives for those who choose them? Improbably as it may seem, we are accumulating the tools to find out."

Alan Ehrenhalt, Greener Pastures, New York Times Book Review, January 5, 2014. Book review of: Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, by Charles Montgomery.

Green spaces and informal, street-level connections make many of us happy neighbors and city walkers. That's good if not entirely surprising news.  If this review had been written forty years ago there would have been a discussion about safety and urban design,  a good first step on the urban happy ladder. I remember neighbors complaining to us neophyte neighborhood planners in the 1970s that fixing up vacant lots would attract gangs. The review doesn't talk about the demographics of who is made happier by which kinds of design interventions. I'll have to check out the book. Lots of the new urbanism, planned or naturally occurring, has meant population displacement and the reduction of affordable housing. Hopefully our future cities will provide greener pastures for all.

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