The Power of Cities

Thursday, June 20, 2013

This interview originally aired live on June 20, 2013. An edited version was re-aired on August 9, 2013 as part of a special episode of The Brian Lehrer Show. 

Do we need to become a country of "trains, trees, and towers?" Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of Columbia University's Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) and author of the new book A Country of Cities: A Manifest for an Urban America, discusses why he thinks "density is destiny", and how cities can solve the world's major problems. 

Comments [18]

Amy from Manhattan

There's even a show on TV now (I think it's still running) called "Suburgatory"!

Aug. 09 2013 10:30 AM
Caesar Romaine from Manhattan

Suburbs subsidized more than cities? Cue NPR's relentless broadcasting of the "rise of the suburban poor" story in May.

One of the complaints here is the distribution of welfare; most of it going to the cities.

You can also review the farm bill, that covers food stamps. Look at federal spending on healthcare, day care, eldercare, education, etc etc etc. Cities get their share of subsidies.

Maybe the problem is the subsidies, not where and to whom they are given.

Jun. 20 2013 11:08 AM
Richard Malenky from Barryville, NY

There is a problem with feeding the people in cities who are (I believe) increasingly demanding locally grown produce. It's population size. Even if people live increasingly efficiently in ever growing cities, there is more land required outside cities to feed each new urbanite. This is unsustainable. Population size MUST be taken into account in people's thinking and it is sadly lacking.

Jun. 20 2013 11:06 AM
Liz from NYC

Interesting conversation on how pop culture shows (and shapes opinion on) urban communities. Beyond the shows referenced, I think many African-American shows have had important realism around cities: Good Times about a family making it despite poor infrastructure and governance in public housing in Chicago followed by 227 about working class families in the same city. I think these shows openly showed residents engagement with city services and government more than shows like Friends which had the city as a sterile backdrop. Even more utopic shows like the Cosby Show and Jeffersons in NYC- talked about community engagement and social inequality more openly.

Jun. 20 2013 11:03 AM
leanne from manhattan

grew up in Eastern Queens, and a lot of people I went to school with ended up in the Long Island suburban thing, but all I wanted since I was 8 was to live in Manhattan. Finally made it in 1980. but what about the cost of trying to remain in the city? tonight the rent board will decide whether my next 2-year lease can go up 9% -- an extra $120 a month! and in another two years it can go up another 9%! some of us are hanging on by the skin of our teeth.

Jun. 20 2013 11:03 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Exactly, gentrification caller:
Black folk priced out of Harlem, for instance, are going to the car cultures of Charlotte, Atlanta, etc.
where their disproportionate poverty can't withstand the gas prices, low non-union wages and mortgage discrimination,
and their diets are incompatible with the lack of sidewalks.

Jun. 20 2013 11:02 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

Rings of impoverished suburbs, slums and shantytowns around wealthier urban cores are actually a common feature of most cities around the world. The US is largely and outlier with the peculiar notion of the poor "inner cities."

Jun. 20 2013 11:00 AM
jf from the future

People in the suburbs should stop squandering their bounty with disgusting lawns and grow extravagant gardens of edens in their yards!

Jun. 20 2013 10:59 AM
maggie from the suburbs

Lucy & Ricky Ricardo move with Ethel & Fred from NYC to the suburbs.
A fabulous show turns boring.
I rest my case.
In the suburbs everyone tries to be the same. In the city, eccentricity is a virtue.
ps I grew up in Jersey City, live now in MOrristown.

Jun. 20 2013 10:57 AM
Hillary from Williamsburg

Don't forget about the 1984 movie Suburbia, a suburban dystopian tale if there ever was one!

Jun. 20 2013 10:57 AM
Amy from Manhatta

The mention of Thoreau is the closest I've heard to anything about the place of rural living in Mr. Chakrabarti's thinking. The millions living in cities & suburbs need to be fed, & how do we do that but move away from industrial agriculture & its environmental damage?

Jun. 20 2013 10:57 AM
Alyson from Brooklyn

In terms of pop culture as an influence, I grew up watching the Cosby Show, Sesame Street, Friends and Seinfeld. And that made me want to move to New York.

Jun. 20 2013 10:55 AM
Josh from NYC

Please have your guest check his facts about density of boros vs. LA. I think he meant that the suburban counties of NY are less dense than LA, not the boros. Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx are all nearly or over 30,000 people per square mile, while LA is less than 10,000 people per square mile.

Jun. 20 2013 10:54 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Hmmm...That means that the minorities and the under-resourced that currently occupy our cities will need to move out. Interesting trick to see the 'white flight' of the 60's reversed to make room for people with money.

The foci of the sub-prime meltdown was suburban marginal income households that NEEDED 2 or 3 vehicles to commute to jobs, school, etc. The six months of $4/g gasoline brought about by Dubya's misread of the way things worked turned up the flame on sub-prime issue.

Unless prices fall A LOT, I just don't think the incomes are there...

Jun. 20 2013 10:53 AM
Jay from Brooklyn

As the country becomes more urban, we have a political system that rewards territory rather than population. Will we need to reform our Constitution too respond to this trend?

Jun. 20 2013 10:52 AM

Woah! The Cosby's lived in Brooklyn !!

Jun. 20 2013 10:52 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

There is no question in my mind that "suburban fever," otherwise known as the "American Dream" is coming to an end. I fully agree that in a century, mile-high skyscrapers in concentrated cities will be where 90% of the world population will be living in. Cities within skyscrapers. Singapore is leading the way in this. Vertical living and even vertical farming will become the norm within a century.

Jun. 20 2013 10:50 AM
antonio from baySide

Does the guest think a suburban faux city like 'glen cove' on LI can be transmogrified to a StreetCar laden haven?

Jun. 20 2013 10:49 AM

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