The Small, Often Imperceptible Reasons Some Neighborhoods Feel Safer Than Others

By Emily Badger
July 15, 2013

Your perception of any city or neighborhood is largely determined by things you can’t quantify, like the vague feeling that a place just seems friendly, or clean, or well-lit. So much of our experience of cities is subjective like this. But if officials could figure out how to measure otherwise emotional or intuitive perceptions of, say, safety, they might be able to better intervene to make neighborhoods actually feel safer (add more park benches, turn up the lights, wash off the graffiti?).

“I had always assumed that I liked some [places] more, but I hadn’t really given much thought as to why,” says Phil Salesses, one of the authors on a new PLOS ONE paper studying the question. “For me it was always a kind of overall gut instinct, an overall feeling. But once I started this project, and I started paying attention to details, I realized that something like trash on the street can flip a bit in my brain.”

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10 Ways to Improve Your City through Public Space

By Mackenzie Keast
Published: September 19, 2012

Public spaces are increasingly being recognized as a crucial ingredient for successful cities, and for their ability to revitalize and create economic and social development opportunities. But actually finding ways to build and maintain healthy public space remains elusive to many municipal governments, especially in the developing world. The vast web of streets, parks, plazas, and courtyards that define the public realm is often lacking, too poorly planned, or without adequate citizen participation in the design process.

Recognizing these challenges, the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) released earlier this month a draft of their handbook Placemaking and the Future of Cities. It’s intended to serve as a best practices guide for those wishing to improve the economic, environmental and social health of their communities through the power of successful public space.

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New York City Seeks Smaller, Smarter Apartments

By Nino Marchetti
Published: July 18, 2012
Sustainable Cities Collective

Could you get by with just 300 square feet of living space? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that if he were a younger man, he’d be happy to live in such a “micro-unit” — and recently, he launched adAPT NYC, a design competition aimed at bringing a whole lot of these tiny apartments to the Big Apple.

The competition was designed to engage the private sector in creating smart, small apartment units to accommodate the city’s growing population, which already tops eight million and is expected to grow by a million more in the years to come. Intersecting nicely with Bloomberg’s PlaNYC launched in 2007 — created specifically to address the needs of these new residents while cutting the city’s carbon footprint – the idea here is to cut down on the rampant practice of illegal subdivision in the city, and create more affordable housing for the city’s singles (and cozy couples) in the process.

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Why Millennials Don’t Want To Buy Stuff

By Josh Allan Dykstra
Published: July 13, 2012
Fast Company

Compared to previous generations, Millennials seem to have some very different habits that have taken both established companies and small businesses by surprise. One of these is that Generation Y doesn’t seem to enjoy purchasing things.

The Atlantic‘s article “Why Don’t Young Americans Buy Cars?” mused recently about Millennials’ tendency to not care about owning a vehicle. The subtitle: “Is this a generational shift, or just a lousy economy at work?”

What if it’s not an “age thing” at all? What’s really causing this strange new behavior (or rather, lack of behavior)? Generational segments have profound impacts on perception and behavior, but an “ownership shift” isn’t isolated within the Millennial camp. A writer for USA Today shows that all ages are in on this trend, but instead of an age group, he blames the change on the cloud, the heavenly home our entertainment goes to when current media models die. As all forms of media make their journey into a digital, de-corporeal space, research shows that people are beginning to actually prefer this disconnected reality to owning a physical product.

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In Praise of Smaller Cities

By Micheline Maynard
Published: July 17, 2012

When I was growing up in Michigan, I couldn’t wait to get out. There was no view as thrilling as the map of a big city laid out from an airplane window at nightfall. Each time my parents took us on a trip, I plotted my escape. I poured over our weekly issue of The New Yorker, memorizing the places advertised in the back of the magazine.

On Sunday afternoons, my brother and I sat in my godmother’s car, playing the game we called “Driving to Chicago.” (Thankfully, her keys were safely put away.)

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How to Handle a City of Tourists

By Sarah Goodyear
Published: June 1, 2012

I used to live in Hell’s Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan back in the early 1990s, and as I walked to work through Times Square every day, I’d find myself in the strange role of tourist attraction. Charter buses lined the sidewalks of the theater district, breathing out hot exhaust fumes. Their inhabitants wielded cameras and gazed out at those of us on the sidewalk as if we were part of a strange urban show.

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Merry Christmas Miscellany

By Aaron Renn
Published: December 22, 2011
The Urbanophile

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone. I’m heading off for a holiday break and will return in 2012. I plan to enjoy the time with family and friends and hope you do to. To give you at least a little something to last you, here are a few things you might want to check out.

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