Atlantic Cities

Rebuilding After the Storm: The Best #CityReads of the Week

Rebuilding After the Storm: The Best #CityReads of the Week
ARO/dlandstudio/Museum of Modern Art

Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days. Share your favorites on Twitter with #cityreads.

"Design from Disasters," Martin Filler, New York Review of Books

As we contemplate the horrific damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, the world of design may seem remote from our most immediate concerns. Yet the urgent needs that follow large-scale catastrophes—the need for shelter, clean water, alternative sources of power—can be particularly conducive to creative solutions. I recently observed that breakthroughs in architecture and industrial design have emerged during wartime; now a remarkable new exhibition in Oslo shows that the same can hold true for natural disasters as well.

"The Empire of the In-Between," Adam Davidson, New York Times Magazine

As anyone who rides Amtrak between New York and Washington knows, the trip can be a dissonant experience. Inside the train, it’s all tidy and digital, everybody absorbed in laptops and iPhones, while outside the windows an entirely different world glides by. Traveling south is like moving through a curated exhibit of urban and industrial decay. There’s Newark and Trenton and the heroic wreckage in parts of Philadelphia, block after block of hulking edifices covered in graffiti, the boarded-up ghost neighborhoods of Baltimore made familiar by “The Wire” — all on the line that connects America’s financial center and its booming capital city.

The weirdness of this juxtaposition is hardly acknowledged anymore, because we’ve all had a few decades to get used to it. But for most of the 180 or so years of the train line’s existence, the endpoints of this journey — New York and D.C. — were subordinate to the roaring engines of productivity in betwee



An Amtrak engine sits on the tracks at Union Station in Washington, D.C. (Jonathan Erns/Reuters)

"The Neighborhood Effect," Mark Parry, The Chronicle of Higher Education

William Julius Wilson, but the experiment that would change her life traces its intellectual roots in part to the Harvard sociologist's 1987 book, The Truly Disadvantaged. Wilson upended urban research with his ideas about how cities had transformed in the post-civil-rights period. Writing to explain the rise of concentrated poverty in black inner-city neighborhoods after 1970, he focused on the loss of manufacturing jobs and the flight of black working- and middle-class families, which left ghettos with a greater proportion of poor people. And he examined the effects of extreme poverty and "social isolation" on their lives. The program that transplanted Jacqueline, Moving to Opportunity, was framed as a test of his arguments about "whether neighborhoods matter" in poor people's lives.

Twenty-five years after its publication, The Truly Disadvantaged is back in the spotlight, thanks to a flurry of high-profile publications and events that address its ideas.

"City Living Will Feel Like a Blast From the Past," Rick Hampson, USA Today

Global warming will be a fait accompli in 30 years, and so these urban Americans will raise their own food, in fields and on rooftops, and build structures to withstand everything from hurricane winds to Formosan termites.

They will walk and ride more and drive less. And they will like it. This is the future envisioned by Andres Duany, architect, town planner, teacher and polemicist. And the future, he will tell you, is his business.


Robin Douthitill picks vegetables at the Brooklyn Grange, a 40,000-square-foot produce-growing rooftop farm, in the Queens. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

"On Cities, Conservatives and Getting Past Boredom," Jarrett Walker, Human Transit

Only in the US has the conservative party so totally abandoned the cities. In the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, conservative parties compete for inner city seats and sometimes win there. That's because these national parties understand the need for cities to function and that this requires a government role.

"NOLA to New York," Andy Kospa

My name is Bonnie and my husband’s name is Scott. We have 2 children, Colette and Benjamin. We are New Orleans residents and Katrina survivors.

Colette was not yet 2 when Katrina hit. My husband is a physician. He gave aid to victims airlifted out of the flooded areas. He later contracted a phenomenon known as “Katrina Bumps”, a skin rash which had no explanation, but is suspected to be connected with the polluted flood waters. I went back to work as a psych nurse 2 months after Katrina. We ALL had PTSD, patients and staff alike, which made it very difficult to do my job.

I cry as I type this. I know your heartbreak. What it is like to see the city you love devastated, communities in ruins, landmark destroyed, and friends and family scattered. But I also know what it is like to come back stronger than ever before. And you will. You will be proud, and be able to say “I AM A SURVIVOR”!

Amanda Erickson is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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