Category: Civil Society
Katrina’s ill winds are bringing some good, in the form of increased awareness of and willingness to consider New Urban architecture and urban planning options for the rebuilding Gulf Coast towns.
I first encountered New Urbanism while reading William Kunstler’s The Geography of Nowhere. Kunstler has written several additional books exploring the creation and evolution of the modern American suburbanscape since The Geography of Nowhere, all of them making reference to New Urbanism. It’s recently popped up in two articles the NY Times. The first, Out of the Muddy Rubble, a Vision for Gulf Coast Towns, by Bradford McKee, recounts the efforts of architects and planners from a variety of perspectives, including members of the Congress for the New Urbanism, to put forth a viable plan for the healthy redevelopment of damaged Gulf Coast towns.
If you’ve not heard yet, New Urbanism advocates the creation of walkable, human scale communities emphasizing mixed use envionments with patterns and structure that allow people to meet daily needs without reliance on automobiles. In short, New Urbanism is an architecture and planning framework that actively opposes sprawl.
Sprawl benefits the short term at the expense of the long term. Critics of New Urbanism often choose to interperet it as a school that restricts the rights of individual property owners, rather than as a series of positive guidelines for how to design communities that are healthy in the long run. But of course that’s always been the short-term view of the long-term greater good…
The dramaticly differing points of view in favor of and opposed to New Urbanist approaches come through very clearly in this exchange:
The Miami architect Andres Duany, a principal figure in the New Urbanism movement, urged the casino owners to integrate the casinos more seamlessly among new clusters of retail stores and restaurants rather than as isolated establishments.
Describing his vision, Mr. Duany said, “You step out onto a beautiful avenue, where you can get a chance to look at the water and the marvelous sunsets and the shops, and walk up and down to restaurants and easily find taxis to other places.“
But Mr. Duany’s design sharply clashed with the casino owners’ main priority.
“A casino owner wants people to stay on the property,” said Bernie Burkholder, president and chief executive of the Treasure Bay Casino, in Biloxi.
“As running-dog capitalist casino owners, we need to understand that the community fits together,” he added, “but we need an economic unit that will hold the customer.“
The second: Gulf Planning Roils Residents also by Bradford McKee, published a few days after the first on December 8, 2005, captures some of the reactions to the plans from Gulf Coast residents. Naturally, the reactions are mixed.
But it’s important to remember that sprawl is a very temporary and surreal status quo, one that created the utterly improbably ecological niche of the personal riding mower. If that’s not a hot-house flower, then what is?
Some links to resources about New Urbanism:
New Urban Timelines
New Urban News
Congress For the New Urbanism
From the “House Committee on Democratic Reform Fact Sheet: Estimated Tax Savings of Bush Cabinet if the Repeal of the Estate Tax Is Made Permanent”:
The estate tax, the most progressive American tax, is paid only by the very wealthy. The top 5% of taxpayers pay almost 99% of estate taxes, and the top tenth of 1% of taxpayers pay more than 33%.3 The vast majority of Americans are already exempt from the estate tax. As a result, they will receive no benefit at all from making the repeal permanent.
Those with much to gain from the repeal include the President and his Cabinet. Based on estimates of the net worth of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and each of the Cabinet members, the President, Vice President, and the Cabinet are estimated to receive a total tax benefit of between $91 million and $344 million if the estate tax repeal is made permanent. The President himself is estimated to save between $787,000 and $6.2 million, while Vice President Cheney is estimated to save between $12.6 million and $60.7 million.
The complete Factsheet is available from Congress.
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