I have an apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. It’s a very densely populated area — according to census data, the area within a 1-mile radius of my place has around 100 residents per acre, or more than 60,000 per square mile. This dense (and, to be honest, affluent) population supports a huge variety of businesses: restaurants, groceries, hardware stores, specialty shops of all kinds. Most of what you might want to do or buy is within easy walking distance.

In effect, then, I live in what some Europeans — most famously Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris — call “a 15-minute city.” It’s a catchy if slightly misleading name for a concept that urbanists have long advocated: walkable cities that take advantage of the possibilities of density.

Modern politics being what it is, alas, it’s also a concept that has been caught up in the culture wars and become the subject of wild conspiracy theories. And as usual the people who yell loudest about “freedom” are actually the ones who want to practice coercion, preventing other Americans from living in ways they disapprove of.

What people who haven’t experienced a real urban lifestyle generally don’t get is how easy life is. Running errands is a snap; because you walk most places, you don’t worry about traffic jams or parking spaces.

What about crime? There’s a widespread perception that New York is a dangerous place. In his speech Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Donald Trump asserted that “killings are taking place at a number like nobody’s ever seen, right in Manhattan.” Yet the reality is that New York is one of the safest places in America.

Am I proselytizing? Well, yes. Most Americans — even those who have visited New York but seen little beyond the crowds in Times Square — have a distorted sense of what urban life can be like. But very few promoters of the 15-minute city would advocate imposing that lifestyle on the population at large. It’s more a matter of making it possible for people to live that way if they choose.

Which is where the culture wars and conspiracy theories come in.

I’ve noted before that there’s an unwritten rule in American politics that it’s OK for politicians to disparage big cities and their residents in a way that would be considered unforgivable if anyone did the same for rural areas. Trump’s false claims about crime weren’t that unusual. There …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Krugman: City life, culture wars and conspiracy theories

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