October 11, 2013 11:22 am
When was the last time you took a trip to Chinatown? You might want to head there soon, because they might not be around for much longer. According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education fund, Chinatowns all over the United States are being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas due to gentrification. At Wired‘s Map Labs blog, Greg Miller breaks down this break-down. Based on the maps, Boston has it the worst:
According to Census records, the percentage of the population that claims Asian heritage in Boston’s Chinatown dropped from 70 percent in 1990 to 46 percent in 2010. New York and Philadelphia’s Chinatowns did not see big change either way by that measure during the same time period, but in all three cities the proportion of homes inhabited by families and the proportion of children in the population dropped considerably. To Li that suggests that multigenerational immigrant homes are breaking up — or moving out.
To figure out the composition of these Chinatowns, volunteers went out and surveyed what types of restaurants, businesses and residential properties were in the area. Restaurants in particular are good barometers for a neighborhood’s service to immigrants. In other words, more Asian restaurants means a more robust Chinatown. But as the survey found, other restaurants and shops are moving in quickly.
The very existence of Chinatowns are a product of discrimination—immigrants created these communities to live in because they were excluded from pre-existing ones. And that tradition continues today, according to Bethany Li, author of the report. But with pressure from condominiums and high-end shops from all sides, many Chinatowns are slowly shrinking. While communities are fighting back, Li’s report says that without help they’ll be pushed out again:
Without the fights against unfettered development led by members from groups like the Chinese Progressive Association in Boston, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association in New York, and Asian Americans United in Philadelphia, these Chinatowns would likely contain even more high-end and institutional expansion. City governments removed and replaced working-class immigrant residential and commercial land uses in each of these Chinatowns.
Bonnie Tsui at Atlantic Cities breaks down what some of those actions might be:
What’s to be done? Recommendations include allocating public land and funds for low-income housing development and retention at a more reasonable proportion to current high-end development; supporting small, local businesses to offset rising rents, given the symbiotic relationship with residents; prioritizing public green spaces; and engaging community organizations, residents, and the larger satellite communities to maintain Chinatowns as shared cultural history and home to working-class immigrants.
For many, Chinatowns are an attraction to a city, and many cities boast about their robust cultural neighborhoods. But they might not be around for much longer.
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October 9, 2013 10:03 am
New York City is known for its neighborhoods—Chelsea, Harlem, Williamsburg, Park Slope, Astoria, Bed-Stuy—which are defined by the characters, cultures, architectures and businesses that fill them. Just as New Yorkers may prefer to stick to one neighborhood over another, so, too, do the city’s cockroaches. These unwanted pests, new research shows, tend to segregate themselves according to the some of the same neighborhood divides as New York’s human residents.
The Wall Street Journal reports on the New York City cockroach genetics study that revealed these findings:
Dr. [Mark] Stoeckle, a specialist in infectious diseases, has spent the past year asking for cockroach donations by mail. He has collected and analyzed about 125 specimens from across the U.S.—but mostly from New York.
Dead cockroaches have been shipped in every conceivable condition to his Upper East Side laboratory in packages from as far away as Australia.
Cockroaches from the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side and nearby Roosevelt Island all have a distinctly different genetic makeup from one another, he found. Whether or not roaches in Little Italy, SoHo, Astoria and other neighborhoods likewise have their own distinct genetic profile will require more specimens to determine, however.
The roaches aren’t distinct species since they can interbreed, Stoeckle told National Geographic, but the finding does indicate that roaches, at least in those three neighborhoods, don’t do much commuting or relocating. “We think of an urban environment as a boring environment for wildlife,” he continued. “But in fact, at least with this one species, there’s a lot going on there.”
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September 24, 2013 12:30 pm
The “Best Before” label on your food is really just a suggestion, and properly stored food can be edible for days, even years, after the listed date. (Even the Food and Drug Administration says so.) Doug Rauch, the former president of the quirky grocery chain Trader Joe’s, saw this as a business opportunity, and he’s come up with a way to sell yesterday’s food.
It’s the idea about how to bring affordable nutrition to the underserved in our cities. It basically tries to utilize this 40 percent of this food that is wasted. This is, to a large degree, either excess, overstocked, wholesome food that’s thrown out by grocers, etc. … at the end of the day because of the sell-by dates. Or [it's from] growers that have product that’s nutritionally sound, perfectly good, but cosmetically blemished or not quite up for prime time. [So we] bring this food down into a retail environment where it can become affordable nutrition.
Now, the idea of saving old food from the waste bin by repurposing it is not new, at all: 1700 years ago the Romans were mixing stale bread with milk and egg, breathing new life into a meal that we now call French toast. The bones and meat from yesterday’s roast end up in today’s soup; browning bananas beget banana bread. Left over fast food burgers turn into chili.
But the out-of-date and overstocked food that Rauch wants to sell already often has a home. The Atlantic took a look last year at the “second life” of expired food, and a lot of it, they write, goes to food banks: “more than half of the 8,360 supermarkets surveyed donated 100,000 pounds of product that they could not sell to food banks annually.”
There is also already a industry of so-called “salvage” grocery stores, which pick up out-of-date food and sell them at a discount—a system pretty similar to Rauch’s plan. “With the current economic troubles,” says the Atlantic, “expired foods are increasingly becoming a part of America’s diet. Salvage stores are seeing a steady uptick in business from cost-conscious consumers. Similarly, food banks across the country have reported an increase of up to 40 percent in the demand for emergency food assistance in the past year, according to a survey by Feeding America, a network of over 200 food banks.”
So, what it seems Rauch really found was a way to sell people on an old idea, and to pluck a few extra dollars out of the food supply system. But, as NPR notes, food waste is a huge problem–“40 percent of our food gets thrown out.” The environmental movement hasn’t had much luck fixing this problem. Maybe the market and some good PR can.
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September 20, 2013 2:27 pm
China has replicas of Venice, the White House, the World Trade Towers and the London-like Thames town—and once you know that it does not seem like such a stretch that there would be a faux Paris in China, too. In 2007, a town called Tianducheng, located about two hours west of Shanghai, began construction of a miniature Paris. The town—built to support a population of 10,000—came complete with a 300-foot tall Eiffel tower, grey Parisian facades, cobblestoned streets and Renaissance fountains. The Atlantic reports:
While the experts scoff, the people who build and inhabit these places are quite proud of them. As the saying goes, “The way to live best is to eat Chinese food, drive an American car, and live in a British house. That’s the ideal life.” The Chinese middle class is living in Orange County, Beijing, the same way you listen to reggae music or lounge in Danish furniture.
In practice, though, the depth and scale of this phenomenon has few parallels. No one knows how many facsimile communities there are in China, but the number is increasing every day.
In Tianducheng’s case, however, things did not go as planned. Despite its charms, the residents never showed, and today, only a handful stroll those eastern boulevards. It’s not that Paris isn’t popular, but rather that the location is all wrong. Tianducheng’s developers plopped the city in the middle of the rural countryside, cut off from urban connections or public transportation, the Huffington Post points out.
Now, the ghost town mainly attracts urban decay tourists and the occasional wedding couple who come to pose for photographs in front of the Eiffel tower. But experts warn that the Paris of the East hasn’t lost its shot at becoming a bustling city of light and love quite yet. Business Insider explains:
China cannot afford to wait to build its new cities. Instead, investment and construction must be aligned with the future influx of urban dwellers. The “ghost city” critique misses this point entirely.
If and when Shanghai and China’s countless other urban hubs spill into the countryside, Tianducheng and its neo-Classical apartments will be waiting.
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September 17, 2013 10:23 am
There’s an oft quoted (and dubious) statistic that, in New York City, you are never more than six feet away from a rat. New York City even has a Rat Information Portal to track rat activity (seriously). Whether the six-foot adage is true or not, there are certainly a lot of rats in New York City. And they bring with them a lot of diseases.
Current health risks associated with Norway rats in general — that is, the brown rat you see everywhere — include hepatitis E (as recently examined in Vietnam, Indonesia, and China), the hantavirus (and you can read about how it affected one pregnant woman in France here), and leptospirosis, the rates of which varied considerably in one neighborhood in Vancouver.
The city of New York has considered building a database of rat viruses, but experts say that just knowing what the rats are carrying won’t have a huge impact on public health. For a while after Hurricane Sandy, there was some nervous talk of rats who were displaced from their homes would coming up from above ground into new areas, bringing with them disease. But so far there has been no increase in rats above ground.
While there’s nothing to be done to get rid of rats entirely, New York City is certainly trying to figure out how to push them out. But perhaps we should update the old phrase, with something like: “You’re never more than six feet away from a rat, and its plague, hepatitis, hantavirus or leptospirosis.” Doesn’t roll of the tongue quite as well though.
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