Atlantic Cities

How Palestine Gave Birth to a Brand-New City: Best #Cityreads of the Week

How Palestine Gave Birth to a Brand-New City: Best #Cityreads of the Week

Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism.

"Cory Booker Has 280,000 Constituents. And 1.4 Million Followers," Carl Swanson, New York Magazine

You just can’t stop Cory Booker from connecting. On the teeming concrete boardwalk in Long Branch down by the shore, the man who will almost certainly become New Jersey’s next U.S. senator—a man who’s lived with the sheen of inevitability his entire, 44-year-long life—is wearing canvas Polo shoes and a loose-fitting dark-blue linen shirt that seems vaguely Indian. It’s the Fourth of July, and he’s meeting the sunburned holiday electorate, the first mayor of Newark in decades to be promoted rather than indicted. Way ahead in the polls, and in fund-raising, Booker is on the hunt for something else: life-force-sustaining electoral tactility. His eyes search relentlessly for yours, then bug in delight and human recognition. Big smile, or, if called for, concerned frown: Tell him something serious, and he’ll turn on a dime.

"Why Cities Give Republicans the Brush-Off," Aaron M. Renn, Public Sector

Republicans tend to see big cities as corrupt and incompetent and, judging by recent election results, the feeling seems to be mutual.  Groaning as they are under the weight of one-party (mis)rule, there’s no doubt that cities could benefit from new ideas and competitive elections. But the Republican Party’s deep-seated indifference towards quality of life issues and improving government is destined to make the GOP even less relevant to urban voters in the future.

Under Tea Party influence and opposition to President Obama, Republicans have come increasingly to view government purely as a fiscal machine, and their guiding ambition is simply to reduce the amount of money flowing through it. Ronald Reagan, though not a Tea Partier himself, succinctly expressed this attitude when he famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

This message doesn’t work at the local level.

"Radical Revival: Harbor Point was failed public housing—until it was rebuilt as the nation's first mixed-income community," Witold Rybczynski, Architect

Although Americans regularly pay lip service to the value of diversity, the truth is that people of different incomes generally choose—for a variety of reasons—to live apart. Nevertheless, since 1992, the federal government has spent more than $5 billion to encourage the rich and poor to live side by side. The so-called Hope VI program has awarded several hundred block grants to scores of cities around the country to replace the barracklike public housing projects of the 1950s with a blend of subsidized and market housing.

Replacing the projects, which concentrate the poor in isolated enclaves, with mixed-income neighborhoods certainly sounds like a great idea. But what does it take to make a successful socially engineered community that departs so radically from the American mainstream? The model for the Hope VI program was a pioneering housing experiment in Boston called Harbor Point, the nation’s first attempt to transform a large dysfunctional federal public housing project into a mixed-income planned community. Now 25 years old, Harbor Point, perhaps more than other projects, can help answer that difficult question.

"Birth of a Palestinian City Is Punctuated by Struggles,"  Isabel Kershner, New York Times

Two students came up with Rawabi, the Arabic word for hills, in a competition to name this new Palestinian city, the first to have been planned from the ground up. The developers rejected suggestions — like Arafat City and Jihad City — that evoked a more chaotic past.

“The new generation is building this city,” said Bashar Masri, 52, the Palestinian businessman who has headed this ambitious project and says he will be moving into a duplex penthouse in the town center once it is completed.

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

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