It's the Environment, Stupid.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sprawl is misunderstood

Sunday's NY Times features an op-ed by Robert Bruegmann (who, according to the bio line is "a professor of art history, architecture and urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago, [and] is the author of 'Sprawl: A Compact History.")

The op-ed piece is titled, "Poor, Misunderstood Sprawl." I'm guessing this is what his book is about - and if it is, I think I'll add it to my reading list. He suggests that sprawl isn't the root of all evil as it's often made out to be. Sprawl is often thought to drain the life of cities, and cause increasing traffic and pollution. "These suggestions," he writes, "are based more on dislike for suburbs and wishful thinking than on any rational analysis of what has actually happened or is likely to happen to the metropolitan region over the next decades."

The metropolitan region in this case is NYC, and Bruegmann goes on to cite several examples of said rational analysis to prove his point. Outward expansion and growth can actually give new life to cities; people move out away from the city to find more affordable housing; the city core simply can't accommodate all of the expected population growth.

He suggests that there needs to be a shift in thinking for cities and suburbs to thrive together within regions. "Perhaps the most important thing that policy makers can do at this point is to reject shopworn notions about sprawl and decentralization, dismantle divisive notions that pit city against suburbs, abandon the fierce debate between public versus private transportation and concentrate on making the entire region, from the central city to the far exurbs, a more efficient and attractive place to live."

While I'm curious to know how or in what ways this transformation to "efficient and attractive" will take place, it is refreshing to see a different perspective regarding suburbs and their relation to the city. After all there would be no suburbia without the urban area it expanded from.

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