Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kids These Days

The day that I went somewhere and said "dang kids" was the day I knew that I had grown old. Not that I am that old, but it just means I'd started desiring different things in my older life than that of my childhood. Kid me would probably be off buying packs of baseball cards and candy corn. Today though I can't even muster up the courage to throw down for an xbox 360 to finally play Halo 3.

But I'm not the point where I'm telling kids to get off my lawn like New Urbanist Andres Duany. In an article in the Atlantic in their very cool city section, Andres goes on to do just that:
There's this generation who grew up in the suburbs, for whom the suburbs have no magic. The mall has no magic. They're the ones that have discovered the city. Problem is, they're also destroying the city. The teenagers and young people in Miami come in from the suburbs to the few town centers we have, and they come in like locusts. They make traffic congestion all night; they come in and take up the parking. They ruin the retail and they ruin the restaurants, because they have different habits then older folks. I have seen it. They're basically eating up the first-rate urbanism. They have this techno music, and the food cheapens, and they run in packs, great social packs, and they take over a place and ruin it and go somewhere else.
I'm not quite sure where this came from. It's pretty low to bash on the people who are moving to cities in droves because they want the urban experience. Do we all become angry at younger folks like this at some point? I sure hope not.


Marc said...

My issue with them, 'them' being my peers, is the fact that many of them do ruin the urban experience because of their lack of communal experience - they come from the suburbs where their individual habits have little to no effect on others. The one habit that's most present in my mind for many of my peers is the issue of entitlement - that there will always be someone else to take care of their mess and that follows them into the urban environment, which they may already see as a dirty place. What's another piece of trash on the train, anyway?

D. Ghirlandaio said...

Marc is absolutely right.

The discovery that urban life is cool is not the same as an understanding of how it became the way it is.
Atrios, for example, can't imagine that people love cities for any other reason's than his own. He's a suburban fan of urban life. He's an American in Paris.

He may be in love with the place but his neighborhood used to be 80% black and that's dropped to 17%. But it's all cool cause he's a liberal.

Welcome to my urban hellhole. Please leave.

Adirondacker12800 said...

Oh please people have been decrying the habits of the newcomers since there were newcomers. The city changes from your ideal, too bad, one of the things about cities is that they are constantly changing.

Henk said...

Dude, or whatever the D. stands for, I loved Paris, the food the wine, what do they call it when the new wine comes out, damn that was fun.

But man you really took the long way around the barn in that jab at Atrios. Maybe you can enlighten us on the correct reasons for loving ones home/city.

Anonymous said...

D. Ghirlandaio,
When was Center City 80% black?

nevermindtheend said...

The complaint doesn't seem to be about people who are actually moving to urban areas, but teens who are driving in from the suburbs on a Friday night.

It still reeks of "get off my lawn," but they are very different issues.

D. Ghirlandaio said...

It's not center City, it's Hawthorne
"Despite the positive results of the initiative’s efforts, it ultimately led to significant community displacement. The former residents of the MLK towers were dispersed during the construction. In addition, the amount of residential space was reduced after the redevelopment, and the vast majority of former residents could not afford to move into and sustain a living in the new MLK complex. This has ultimately changed the demographic of the neighborhood; prior to the government intervention and development provided by Hope VI, the neighborhood was predominantly African American, however, since federal intervention the community is 67% White, 12% Black, 15% Asian, and 6% Latino."

Atrios downplays the effects of gentrification. Why? Because he can't admit it contradicts his own self-image. I'm sure you loved Paris, Henk, just like he loves Philly. Parisians and people born in Hawthorne, might think something else entirely. But maybe they don't matter much.

Par for the course for American liberals: kinder gentler wingnuts.

Anonymous said...

I am fairly sure that Duncan lives in a neighborhood
not actually centrally located in Philadelphia.

There are many different neighborhoods around downtown.

D. Ghirlandaio said...

He lives in Hawthorne.
Which isn't even the problem. But he calls it "his neighborhood" without mention of how it got that way.

You want more examples, look at his dislike of urban parks. Philadelphia has one of the largest and most complex park systems in the world. I could feel lost in it as a kid, and yet have a street just over the hill. Atrios isn't an urbanite so he doesn't know what that can mean to a child, or to an adult. But he couches every argument in arrogant assumptions of abstract reason, when he's responding from his personal experience and preferences. But he can't imagine others unlike him without them being somehow irrational or odd. Whatever the problem is, it's not his fault.

That's not left or right, it's know-nothing Americanism. And it's a bad fucking joke.

Anonymous said...

Why did you seize on that one item and ignore this:

What's it like to return to Havana--to an urban landscape untouched by the destructiveness of global capital?

I think it's more than just capital. There are two kinds of destruction: there's the loss of the city, the high rises, which is what happened in Mexico City and Buenos Aires and Bogota. But then there's the other destruction, which is the migration of the rural people to the city. And that was controlled in Cuba. They just said, "You don't have your card, you don't have your permit, you are not coming in."

But I think the most interesting experiment of all is Singapore. Singapore had nothing going for it. No raw materials. And you got a kind of top-down government that was almost completely enlightened, putting education first and so forth, and you have this city that is extremely livable.

While democracy does most things well, I think we need to confront the fact that it does not make the best cities. And that the cities that were great were rather top-down. You know--Paris and Rome, the grid of Manhattan. What would those have been like if there hadn't been some top-down stuff? Every landowner would have done a separate little pod subdivision. That's one of the things that's naive about Americans--extremely naive, I find, as an outsider having lived in places that are possibly less democratic, like Spain. This idea that you have an individual right to do whatever you want with your land is very democratic, but the result is pretty questionable.

Unfortunately, it's hard to have a debate in this country about certain things. We talk about bottom-up planning. And by the way, I make my living doing this bottom-up planning. But if you unfilter what people want--they don't want poor people, they don't want income diversity, and they don't want shops anywhere near them and they don't want rapid transit and they don't want streets that connect and they don't want anybody bicycling past their yards and they don't want density. So you can't just do unfiltered bottom-up planning. We need to educate.

That's um, actually very astute. And yet, you relegate him to cranky old man status?

I am a cranky old man, and, brother, that fellow is anything but cranky. He is on top of his game, sir.

Daniel M. Laenker said...

Andres Duany is an arrogant prick to be sure, but I'm actually surprised to see that he cares about gentrification. Which has very real impacts on urban life, and causes profound economic and demographic shifts for people who live in cities. There's a reason American suburbs are becoming increasingly poor - the poor are being forced out of the cities.

Concern about gentrification is rich coming from Duany, though, as he spent an enormous amount of time and money trying to "redevelop" a squatter-punk landmark of great historical significance in Berlin.

phillygirl said...

Hey, D.,

My neighborhood, Schuylkill, used to be 80 percent Irish and poor. Guys here used to beat up black kids in the park. Then they sold their houses, made lots of money, and decamped to Jersey and Delaware County to get away from black people altogether. Does that bother you, too? Or should we try to get them back?

Pedestrianist said...

I may be guilty of a few get-off-my-lawn moments, and I'm certainly guilty of a few anti-social youthful indiscretions.

Living in a city means you needs to have a certain amount of patience and understanding for the behavior of your fellow citizens. And it also means you need to check oneself before you wreck oneself.

Living in SF (especially after the B2B last weekend) I see an awful lot of the newly-arrived who seem unburdened by the social restrictions that they lived under when their family was around. Without these restrictions, this group of people acts like a group of kids whose parents have left town for the weekend.

The problem I see with rapid gentrification (the one relevant to this thread anyway) is this gap in the transition of cultural mores, which creates friction between the Old and the New.

D. Ghirlandaio said...

"The problem I see with rapid gentrification (the one relevant to this thread anyway) is this gap in the transition of cultural mores, which creates friction between the Old and the New."

So I guess the slum clearance is a policy you approve of.

Also in lower-middle and middle class immigrant neighborhoods newcomers get along fine, very often even if they're from another ethnicity. In my neighborhood I cross paths, and chat, with members of 7-10 different ethnic groups each day. The common fear is of young Americans moving in and taking over. As one woman says: "I hope not. I like the diversity."

A community of individualists is an oxymoron.

baby nursery bedding said...

Kids nowadays are just so active.They are more advance that I was a kid.

Daniel M. Laenker said...

What are you even talking about, baby nursery bedding?

...Oh, wait, you're talking about baby nursery bedding. Maybe you should lurk moar?

Alon Levy said...

The snippet about gentrification is actually a lot more astute than the ignorant swipe at democracy. Yes, Singapore's done some good things top-down. It's also done terrible things:

- Its housing projects are dominated by drug gangs, and the only way to keep a lid on the problem is to censor anyone who points this out.

- Despite official policies of racial tolerance, the city remains racist, and the Chinese majority uses legal tactics to exclude the Malay and Indian minorities from good jobs. The main policy here is a rule saying each ethnic group must learn its native language in school as a second language; all Chinese, and only Chinese, are made to learn Mandarin.

- The government still uses infrastructure as a way to clear out neighborhoods with too much street spontaneity.

- Education is all about teaching to the tests, to the point that the government sends emissaries to the top US public schools to learn better teaching methods from them.

And that's a country with one of the most competent top-down planning agencies around. In the US, top-down planning created urban renewal and the Interstate boondoggle first, and now gentrification and underperforming transit. Abroad, it created Vietnam and Iraq.

BruceMcF said...

Clearly we need to establish little suburban villages in the middle of the suburban sprawl so that suburban kiddies have a place to be taught the proper manners for urban life before they get themselves down to the city.

Also, if we build them along dedicated transport corridors, they won't have to drive downtown and take up all the parking spaces.

However, their downtown hangouts will still have weird music. Finding music that old geezers like me find to be weird, and nothing like the lovely punk rock and reggae of our youth, is part of being young.

Its a fine thing to rock the casbah, but too many people who don't know how to act in an urban setting can take a place straight to hell.

Pedestrianist said...

"So I guess the slum clearance is a policy you approve of."

Woah dude, I have no idea how you got that from my comment. I have no problem with gradual succession in neighborhoods and communities - change is constant after all. What I'm definitely against is rapid population turnover - and slum clearance qualifies as such - because that makes it difficult or impossible to transmit the social rules and customs that we all need to share (or be aware of) in order to get along.

Fruitbat said...

I found the paragraph that follows the one you quoted to be especially revealing: ...These people would normally be buying real estate by now. And we designed for them. We kept saying, "Aha, these kids, between 24 and 35, will be buying real estate." Guess what? They aren't. Because they can't afford it. But they're still using the cities--they're renting and so forth. The Gen-Xers also discovered the cities; they're buying in a proper way.
Seems like Duany is conflating two issues -- ill-mannered youth and youth who can't afford to buy "in a proper way." The latter results from larger socioeconomic forces (declining value of a bachelor's degree, enormous student loan debt, gentrification in the urban core, etc. etc.) that don't necessarily have anything to do with naughty kids who should get off his lawn. And how do people ruin retail and restaurants by patronizing them? Hipster kids annoy me too, but I don't see why a retailer would hesitate to take their money.

Anonymous said...

Did he really say "...then older folks" or did you add this spelling error in retyping the quotation"

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I just cut and paste from the article, so it might have been the author. Then probably was supposed to be "than*

arcady said...

The city has ALWAYS been the place where the rural population migrates to, and historically, cities have been population sinks, so there was always room for more. I think this admiration for Cuba and Singapore just makes clear Duany's totalitarian leanings. Which isn't surprising, since the job of an urban planner, especially a New Urbanist one, has some element of telling people how to live their lives.

J.D. said...

That's true, arcady, but I think most of us have learned something about democracy and emergent processes since then.

It's pretty upsetting to hear this from Duany, because he's been so inspirational to so many people. I imagine this is not unlike when second- and third-wave feminists really began to experience a break.

J.D. Hammond said...

Woops, that was me. Sorry!

D. Ghirlandaio said...

NYU doesn't support neighborhoods it destroys them.

My neighborhood is full of cafes and bars and because of a large number of Europeans and others from countries with a cafe culture predating Starbucks, the nightlife crosses not just cultural but generational boundaries. Cafe's that serve alcohol are full of people not just full of drunken kids. The nights are late but the streets don't smell like puke and piss in the morning. That's changing.
I wish you assholes knew what you were talking about.

J.D. Hammond said...

I don't know very much about you, Mr. Ghirlandaio (I'm even presuming your gender), but this is starting to sound like an argument about something else.

Maybe you should go back to trolling TPM over the Arab-Israeli conflict?

D. Ghirlandaio said...

Just tired of saying the obvious, that's all.
Here and at TPM too,

EngineerScotty said...

This little brouhaha reminds me of Tom T. Hall's rather politically-incorrect ruralist lament from several decades ago, Subdivision Blues. Only difference, really, is the identity of the guy complaining about his new neighbors.

Nothing to see here, move along...

Matt Fisher said...

I can't believe Andres Duany would say that. :( Besides, don't right wingers call Singapore a "nanny state"?

J.D. Hammond said...

Well, it depends. There's a large degree of social control, but it's also considered neoliberal, economically, so....

arcady said...

I'm really, really not surprised to hear Duany say this. I've read Suburban Nation, and assuming it's a reasonable representation of his ideas on urban planning, New Urbanism has always had a strong tendency in the direction of telling people how to live their lives. He advocates for retail to be centrally managed: convert your town's shopping street into an outdoor mall, basically.

Alon Levy said...

Matt: no, right-wingers admire Singapore. The AEI ranks it as the economically freest country in the world; neo-lib reformers in Israel admire how it has no welfare, weak unions, and harsh sentencing; I've heard conservatives talk positively about its free-market health care system.

While Singapore is indeed a nanny state, Western conservatives completely ignore the nanny statish aspects.

Spokker said...

I love Singapore. I obey the law to a fault. I would fit right in if I knew the language and was not a stupid American.