parkways

3 May 2010

I don’t quite get this post by Atrios. He says he’s often skeptical of urban parks, which is understandable (depending on the park), but to judge by the link he provides, the places he’s talking about aren’t really parks. I’ve never seen Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway, but the picture here in the Boston Globe is not a picture of anything I’d call a park. It looks like a median strip in the middle of a wide and busy road – a street that might be called a “way”, perhaps, with some “green” in the middle.

Incidentally, unless other sections of the Greenway have wider “parklands”, I doubt the solutions proposed in that Globe article will do anything for the “park” even though they would probably benefit the neighborhood. But that pictured section is probably never going to be better than something to look at while driving by.

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сколько лет, сколько зим

1 February 2009

I’m a huge fan of re-photography – the practice of re-staging old photographs as precisely as possible and then comparing the earlier and later. Third View, focusing on the American west, is a good example. But these shots of St. Petersburg today/Leningrad during the seige take the concept to a whole new level. It’s like you can see through time (with English text here, which might actually be the original posting location – I’m not sure).

(via)


corruption update

13 January 2009

A quick follow-up to the Baltimore post: the mayor has now been indicted too.


Baltimore, apple core

9 January 2009

I couldn’t help but think of the redevelopment and politics subplot in The Wire when I read this (via):

A Baltimore grand jury indicted a city councilwoman and a developer with close ties to Mayor Sheila Dixon Wednesday on bribery charges related to tax breaks for luxury buildings under construction on the city waterfront.

The indictments of Councilwoman Helen L. Holton and developer Ronald H. Lipscomb are the most prominent charges to emerge from a wide-ranging probe by the Maryland state prosecutor into corruption at Baltimore City Hall, an investigation that included the search of the mayor’s home last summer.

Prosecutors say Holton, head of a committee that oversees tax incentives, approved tax breaks worth millions of dollars for projects involving Lipscomb at Inner Harbor East, after Lipscomb paid $12,500 for a political survey for Holton last year.

Holton, first elected in 1995, was charged with perjury, for failing to list the payment on her annual financial disclosure statement, and with misusing her office. She said in a statement issued by her lawyers that she was “disappointed” in the grand jury’s decision and would continue in office while the legal proceedings continue.

The development stunned City Council members, who have been in recess for the past month, and fueled speculation that the nearly three-year investigation might be reaching its climax. The current grand jury expires Friday and to date the probe has seemed to focus on contracts and hearings held by Dixon when she was the president of the City Council and on her relationship with Lipscomb.


remodernity

29 July 2008

Capitalizing on Russia’s growing economy, Moscow is embracing cafe culture (weather permitting):

When it comes to enjoying the outdoors, Russians have always been adept at taking what they can get: sunbathing standing up beside frozen rivers or growing a year’s worth of vegetables at their country houses during the short, bright summers.

But outdoor cafes have taken on a special importance in Moscow, where over the last decade people have slowly colonized street spaces that once offered little in the way of coziness.

Cafes have filled in the architectural nooks and crannies away from the city’s wide avenues — behind apartment houses, in park buildings. And, like New Yorkers willing to squeeze into tiny cafe tables next to dry cleaners or even garbage cans, some Moscow diners happily sit outdoors next to 10-lane boulevards.

Every spring, restaurants and cafes hammer together wooden terraces that they call, in honor of their short window of operation, summer cafes.

Prices are not cheap; it is common to pay the equivalent of $4 to $8 for cappuccino. Yet popular chains like Shokoladnitsa, whose name is Russian for chocolate girl, and Kofe Haus offer an accessible treat to the growing class of urban professionals, like architects, accountants and designers, who cannot afford the luxury goods marketed to the richest Russians but have made a little extra money from the country’s oil-driven consumer boom.

And for those who have not made a little extra money? Well:

Outdoor cafes underline the growing gap between rich and poor. Nastya Fomina, who was smoking with four teenage friends at Prime Star, a deli-like cafe near the Kremlin, said it disturbed her when passers-by asked for money.

I wonder if she’s read the relevant Baudelaire (link should go to pages 52-3).


history: older than it looks

16 June 2008

If you’re reading this blog, you probably have already seen Rick Perlstein’s posts on Box 722. If you haven’t, they’re fascinating and you should go read them. I was struck by this statement in the second post:

One thing to observe: over and over again, the Chicago Southwest Siders protesting open housing repeat a variant of the resident on 71st Street who averred that Congress “cannot legislate morals or love.” The reason this is fascinating was that this was one of Barry Goldwater’s constant refrains on the campaign trail in 1964 for why he didn’t vote for the civil rghts act. Like most everywhere else, not many people on the Southwest Side of Chicago voted for Barry Goldwater. But clearly they heard what they had to say, and took it to heart, and repeated it verbatim two years later. It’s a fascinating lesson in the mysterious ways political messages take hold.

But while the letter-writers might have been influenced by Goldwater, the message itself has a longer history. My guess is that the general claim that it’s not possible to legislate morality could be traced to some dead political theorist; in the context of segregation it shows up in the majority opinion in Plessy vs. Ferguson:

The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition. If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits and a voluntary consent of individuals…. Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences, and the attempt to do so can only result in accentuating the difficulties of the present situation.

[Quoted in Charles Payne, “”The Whole United States Is Southern!”: Brown v. Board and the Mystification of Race”, which is worth reading, here.]