Archive for November, 2008

Baby Boomers, Gentrification and Re-urbanization in Melbourne, AU

Posted in Population Geography, Urban Geography on November 25, 2008 by geography101

Shepard Simpson from our class provides a lucid account of an aspect of gentrification and re-urbanization that we didn’t touch on in lecture. Its not just young professionals who are moving back to the city to take advantage of its new creative enterprises, but also the ‘baby boomers’. As Shepard notes below, many of these ’empty nesters’ like those of her parents generation, are also returning to the city, contributing to its rapid transformation:

skyline1The first picture is from the balcony of my parents’ apartment, taken about a year ago when I was home for winter break. My parents live in Melbourne, Australia and had just recently moved from a suburb of Melbourne to a place which is a ten minute walk to downtown (the beauty of being empty nesters). The following picture depicts an office complex that has been built during the past year right next door. These pictures made me think about the process of urbanization we have been discussing in class, and the idea of an “aging population” resulting from the approaching retirement of the baby boomer generation which we discussed in discussion sections during our second round of debates.construction1

The area which my parents moved to used to be the industrial sector made up of strings of warehouses that lined the Yarra River. Over the past few decades, these warehouses have been either torn down and/or renovated into new modern apartment complexes and huge infrastructure projects. More and more people are relocating to the area because of its proximity to downtown and its location on the river. In my opinion this is a prime example of Gentrification and “Re-urbanization”. The picture also made me start thinking about how the restructuring of cities and the outmoded concept of “Levittown” is in large part connected to the “soon to come” retiring group of baby boomers. I think it is going to be interesting to observe over the next couple decades how urban geographies continue to evolve and in turn what affects this will have on suburban life. 


Nationalism in crisis: Baseball caps okay, Turbans are not.

Posted in Political Geography on November 20, 2008 by geography101

Lauren Hsiao-Ling Nowak from our class presented an acute example of how nationalism, under perceived crisis, structures social relations at the scale of the workplace. Workers for the MTA who practice Sikhism wore their turbans to work for several years without incident. Following September 11th, 2001, the MTA began ‘cracking down’ on Sikhs wearing their turbans while working, stating that it was against ‘company policy’. Lauren writes:

The video clip below is about employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for the state of New York who practice Sikhism. Many times, those who have heard of Sikhism confuse it with hinduism or Islam, but it is neither. It is a religion from Punjab India, and believes in the equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and gender. Sikhism requires you to wear a turban and never cut your hair.

Sikh workers were threatened with being terminated from their jobs if they continued to wear their turbans, targeted on the basis of their appearance. MTA officials determined their headdress was not part of the uniform, even though they were not the only people wearing something ‘unofficial’ on their head (other workers wore Russian winter hats, or baseball caps supporting the Mets & the Yankess ).

Many of you may be thinking, “why didn’t they just take their turbans off?” but like I said earlier, Sikhism is the only religion that REQUIRES you to wear a turban. Although nationalism is often said to be diverse and bring sense of commonality and belonging, in this example, we can see this idea can be greatly infringed upon in a smaller scale, within the workplace of subway stations in New York.

National symbol of American Dream is a foreclosure hotspot

Posted in Economic Geography, Political Geography, Urban Geography on November 19, 2008 by geography101
Levitt and Sons filled for bankrupcy in 2007

Levitt and Sons filed for bankruptcy in 2007

An op-ed piece in today’s New York Times notes that in Levittown, empty houses and for sale signs are shattering enduring images of the post-war suburban dream. In Long Island, the home of Levittown, about 1 in 3 mortgages were sub-prime:

“[Foreclosures] may seem to be a problem for overbuilt exurbs, go-go condo zones and McMansion sprawl — not tidy, solid communities like Levittown, where the American Dream was invented.”

Levitt and his sons revolutionized homebuilding over 50 years ago through a combination of technological innovations and mass production. Levittown became the pinnacle of a society driven by middle class consumption. As the largest all-white community in the nation in 1960 (today it’s 94 % white), it also speaks volumes to the social geographies produced through the federally administered race-restricted mortgages of that era. Last year, Levitt and Sons filled for bankruptcy protection after its investments in Florida’s housing markets collapsed. Read the full story from the New York Times here

The Top Ten Influences on the American Metropolis of the Past 50 Years

Posted in Urban Geography on November 11, 2008 by geography101


Robert Fishman, influential urban historian, conducted a survey at the end of the last millennium of members of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History (SACRPH) to compile a list of the top ten influences on America cities over the past 50 years. The list (on the far left) begins with the 1956 Interstate Highway Act and ends with the urban riots of the 1960s. On the column to the right, the Society’s predicts the biggest influences on cities in the coming 50 years. They predict growing polarization, the internet and the decline of the post-war suburbs will be among the major influences on cities in the new millennium. The report was written in 1999. Nearly ten years into this new age, how accurate have their predictions been? What is missing from the list? How has 9/11 influenced urban life? Read the full report here

Urban polarization in US rivals cities in the global south, UN report says

Posted in Urban Geography on November 10, 2008 by geography101

A report released by the United Nations last month suggests that inequality in New York, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans rivals that of some cities in Africa. The report, which reviewed economic inequality in cities around the world says that in both Canada and the US, a key factor determining poverty levels is race. According a review of the report in the International Herald Tribune, 

[t]he life expectancy of African Americans in the United States is about the same as that of people living in China and some states of India, despite the fact that the United States is far richer than the other two countries.

Read about the UN report State of the World’s Cities 2008/2009 here

Mumbai: everyday contradictions of urbanization and globalization

Posted in Geography and Globalization, Urban Geography on November 10, 2008 by geography101

09worldxlarge2A recent essay by Anand Giridharadas speaks volumes to the contradictions of Mumbai in the face of urbanization and globalization. This is a city where “luscious skyscrapers sprout beside mosquito-prone shantytowns”; where Bollywood–India’s answer to Hollywood–meets Dharavi, a slum where one million people inhabit one square mile. Giridharadas remarks that “these dueling claims on Mumbai explain its mongrel look: like a duty-free mall in parts, in parts like a refugee camp.”

What does it mean to be an emerging global city and home to one of the largest slums in Asia? What do plans for Dharavi’s redevelopment have to do with the need for cities to compete in an increasingly globalized marketplace? Processes of displacement within the context of urban redevelopment are not confined to places like Mumbai. As we begin our discussion of urbanization and gentrification we’ll begin to see similarities between what’s happening in Mumbai and Dharavi and cities in the western world. Read Giridharadas’ story, published along with a slide show, in the New York Times here

Rebecca Solnit on the Election of Barak Obama

Posted in Political Geography on November 6, 2008 by geography101

Rebecca Solnit, activist and essayist, with some words of caution following Tuesday’s election:

‘…we have been given a hero, which is a bit like being given a chainsaw or a credit card: you have to be careful how you use it.’

Read her essay on four moments that have constituted the remaking of a nation.