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Neighbourhood News

Neighbourhood News April 20th – Rethinking Cities

A look at ways that people are suggesting that we make our cities better.

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Brookings

April 14, 2010 —

In the latest installment of The Economist’s video series “Tea with The Economist,” Bruce Katz discusses the primary ways that metropolitan areas in the United States can collectively propel the country back toward prosperity. Katz emphasizes the need for smarter investments from the public and private sectors and how a shift to a low-carbon economy is vital for maintaining the country’s competitiveness.

Host: Why the focus on metros?

Bruce Katz: Metropolitan areas in the United States and here in Europe really concentrate all the assets that drive prosperity and will drive economic recovery. So the top 100 metropolitan areas in the United States — these are the big cities and the suburbs that surround them — sit on only 12 percent of the land mass, they house two-thirds of the population, they generate about three-quarters of the gross domestic product.

But when it comes to the assets that drive prosperity, they’re about 94 percent of venture capital in the United States, they’ve got all the talented workers, those with graduate degrees, the engineers, the scientists. They’re our freight hubs, rail and air, and they have that quality of place that really attracts, particularly, the younger generation. So they pack a really powerful punch. But the United States tends to think of itself as a network of small towns. It really doesn’t think of itself as a powerful metro nation. So to a large extent the country nor the states, because we are a union of states still in many respects, don’t really leverage the assets in these places. Take me to the article

Project for Public Spaces

Transformative Times: Earth Day 1970, Placemaking, and Sustainability Today

40 years ago this week, I coordinated the first Earth Day celebration in New York City. The city had never seen anything like it.

We were laying the groundwork for a new way of looking at the world—expanding the public’s thinking beyond the limited vision that characterized fields like industry, economics, science and politics to embrace a much larger view of the whole planet.

Earth Day transformed New York—literally. To draw attention to protecting the environment in cities, we turned Fifth Avenue into a “place” by eliminating traffic from 59th Street to Union Square.  People poured out of offices and apartments to walk down the middle of the most important street in New York on a beautiful spring day. (This was five years before I founded Project for Public Spaces, but you can see the idea was already germinating.)

It was a lot of fun for everyone, but also a potent symbol that this new movement could bring great, positive changes to our lives.  And ideas born on the first Earth Day are beginning to come to fruition today, with the closing of portions of Broadway and the New York City Summer Streets Program which PPS helped bring about.

Union Square Park was the site of the main Earth Day celebration with an enormous stage set up for speakers, prayers and music. Booths promoting ecological awareness spread throughout the park. Bliss and the promise of a better world were in the air, along with whiffs of pot in a few isolated corners.

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