CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 7/24/2013
Vishaan Chakrabarti is a partner at SHoP Architects, the director of Columbia's Center for Urban Real Estate, and the author of A Country of Cities, published by Metropolis Books. His Op-Ed piece for the July 22 issue of Crain's is excerpted below.
The data are in: Dense, transit-rich, mixed-income cities are outpacing suburbs in the “three Es”—the economy, the environment and social equity (which I define as equal access to opportunity). Cities nationwide, however imperfectly, are delivering more prosperity, sustainability and social mobility than suburbs.
My research indicates that our cities, which make up 3% of the land in the continental U.S., generate 90% of our gross domestic product and 86% of U.S. jobs. Urbanites' carbon footprint is far lower than suburbanites' because we use mass transit and live in energy-efficient apartments.
Nonetheless, the federal government subsidizes suburban living by more than $100 billion annually through tax deductions, fossil-fuel giveaways and highway spending. We must push to recapture the billions in taxes we send to Albany and Washington, D.C., without a return.
It also means we must build upon our city's success by embracing growth. Manhattan works because of its density, yet our outer boroughs are less dense than Los Angeles. The Brooklyn renaissance correlates to the borough's densest parts, including brownstone neighborhoods and downtown, where mixed-income, modular high-rises are springing up.
At SHoP Architects, we are working with Two Trees Management Co. on the Domino Sugar plan, integrating new housing (including hundreds of affordable units), entrepreneurial office space, neighborhood retail and more than five acres of waterfront park into Williamsburg. These burgeoning parts of Brooklyn resulted from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's selective upzonings, which his successor must continue.
At Columbia University's Center for Urban Real Estate, we will soon release a report indicating that a lack of affordable housing and zoning capacity means adding a million new residents to the city won't happen until 2040—not 2030, as PlanNYC projects. Unless we zone for more affordable urbanism—particularly larger mixed-income projects on or near the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts—we will not meet even that tepid growth rate.
Every new urban resident increases our tax base and reduces our region's carbon footprint. We have come a long way since the days of Mad Men, when midtown was our dominant job center. Our future is as a “city of cities” in which many hubs—midtown, downtown, the Flatiron district, Hudson Yards, a new Penn Station, Hudson Square, Dumbo, Roosevelt Island, Long Island City and emerging areas like St. George and the South Bronx—form walkable, bikable, live/work districts.
We can build them with dense, green affordable housing, office and retail; to withstand storms and climate change; and with vibrant streets, parks and schools. The city's history is about welcoming strivers from around the globe. Our future must expand upon this great past.
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