Urban Planning

Four Hurricanes

Four Hurricanes

Every hurricane that hits, for the ones it fucks up, is the worst one ever

State officials lease our land to petrochemical engineering companies that produce the plastics and poisons that all but ensure we lose everything to climate change, at which point they will find someplace else to go. There are fewer and fewer wetlands to buffer storms on their way to the shore as a result of catastrophic losses to the region’s biodiversity. Don’t get me fucking started on the damming of the Mississippi, which would otherwise naturally rebuild the marsh by continuously depositing sediment it brought down.

Freeway Ends

Freeway Ends

Infrastructure, they’re talking about it a lot more

A billboard whose finer print I can’t read says FREEDOM and the next says EMPIRE (an insurance group) and the next says ESCAPE REALITY (an image of a boat). This road leads to Lake Superior, which might as well be an ocean. 35 takes you to the end of America, or the beginning, depending on whom you ask. But there’s an energy to the ends of things. Cars and trucks are driving very fast.

The Speculator

The Speculator

Six hundred and ten square feet of possibility

My home was a commodity with a life of its own. It operated within DC’s cycle of displacement, increasing in value without much input from me, and regardless of my politics or morals. My income, which in my third year at HUD would approach six figures, made me an economic gentrifier. It had allowed me to pay an absurd amount for 610 square feet.

Up-Island

Up-Island

Once upon a pastoral time, whenever that time might be, Martha’s Vineyard was paradise

Martha’s Vineyard has always been a place that gives people their privacy and allows separate, siloed communities to have their own social affairs. “Chilmark midnight” is nine o’clock, at which time things are still going strong down-Island. Only Edgartown and Oak Bluffs allow liquor stores. The summer and year-round crowds are separate, too, more so than in the old days, and so are the ethnic communities, less so than in the old days—there are more cross-cutting ties of old classmates and the like, now—but more than one might imagine.

Community Defense in Minneapolis

Community Defense in Minneapolis

We are not yet after a revolution

Abolition—the notion that prisons and policing are directly linked to slavery and thus antithetical to human liberation—is not new, but it is to some people. That is lamentable, and not unrelated to the challenges associated with social transformation, but it is not avoidable. We need to prepare the ground, look for nascent and emerging practices and nourish them.

Distance Must Be Maintained

Distance Must Be Maintained

We walk to escape the trauma of the pandemic, only to relive it all over again by walking.

We’re told this is temporary, a momentary suspension of normality, and in our hearts we sentimentalists all want to believe the streets will soon be filled once more with stoop dawdlers, grandmas pushing shopping carts, vested business bros with their phones on speaker, fleets of annoying schoolkids, boys and girls out on the prowl, the stench of weed and the cries of desire. (On second thought, let’s consign the business bros to the past.) But we all know the dream of a quick recovery is delusional, that our altered reality will last a year, maybe two.

I Must Leave My House

I Must Leave My House

Roaming through the Covid-19 surveillance state

I walk along towards the north entrance to my neighborhood’s business district. An undulating wave of weed smoke wafts down from open windows of apartments that shed a desolate glow over all the closed shops. It’s been 90 minutes since I last went online, my phone and network devices all at home. What do they know, who do they talk to when I’ve made no purchases at point of sale terminals and have spoken only to myself? I turn the corner towards my block.

What Will They Think of the Megadisasters to Come?

What Will They Think of the Megadisasters to Come?

Dispatch from the Extinction Rebellion protests in London

Mass arrests are part of Extinction Rebellion’s strategy to raise the profile of the climate emergency. “The action itself is not actually that important. It’s the going to prison that’s got cultural relevance,” Roger Hallam, an XR founder, said in a short documentary made by The Guardian. Just a few days into the protest, hundreds of arrests have already been racked up: there are reports of activists being booked as far away as Brighton, Luton, and Essex because London jails are overwhelmed. When the police decide to arrest XR members, they usually do so by issuing Section 14 notices, which can be done if officers believe that a stationary protest “may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community.” Technically, the police monitoring the XR actions are in their power to declare this at any time they see fit, but in reality, for reasons of optics or understaffing, they often choose to watch how things progress from the sidelines. The rhythms of the protest are strange: long periods of calm punctured by sudden moments of drama when the police decide to move in on one area or another in a coordinated attempt to clear it.

Desperately Seeking Cities

Desperately Seeking Cities

Amazon has bankrupted the ideology it claimed to appeal to: the ideology of “urbanism.”

Most city dwellers, it turns out, live lives of quiet desperation for Amazon. What was happening to Philadelphia disclosed the emptiness not just of this city, but of what people all over the country had learned to think cities were good for.