After reading Chapter 7 of Contemporary Urban Planning on The Social Issues, it was interesting to learn the strong social impacts from the design and layout of a community.
One contradiction I enjoyed was that on high rise construction for housing. When used as public housing, historically it has led to disastrous results breeding crime and poverty. Gangs and crimes in these areas are sometimes above the law with little protection for the innocent hard-working people that would prefer not to be involved. High rise complexes with expensive prices on the other hand seem to have the opposite impact creating a prestigious environment. I also thought it was interesting to note that when grouping together poor people in affordable housing, it can sometimes be perceived as discriminatory. In the case of the Yonkers affordable housing case, the projects were situated together where there was better access to public transportation, an ideal location for someone who may not be able to afford a car. It was interesting to hear how a positive idea could have such negative social impacts. When wealthier people isolate themselves in gated communities or high rise buildings with secured entrances, there is more of an elitist atmosphere where those who are not allowed in feel discriminated against. In some ways you really can’t win. I agree that it is better to be part of a mixed environment and exposed to people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, but on the other hand it is also sometimes easier to connect with people who are part of the same economic class as you because you can afford similar lifestyles. There is a fine line in satisfying all members of a community.
Another topic I found interest in was the problem of the homeless. I used to live Ocean Grove in the early 2000s, a small seaside town that is somewhat isolated in its layout and is pretty much ruled by a large Methodist Church. Their Camp Meeting Association actually owns all the land in the town. The home owners only own their houses and lease the land for 99 years. Ocean Grove has a huge mentally ill homeless problem. When the Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital closed its doors in the mid 90’s many of the mentally ill took over the bed and breakfasts and motels in Ocean Grove. I had heard of this living there but the section on homelessness explained a movement in the 80’s and 90’s for “patient’s rights”, advocating that no one should be held against their will if they are not a threat to themselves or others. The book brings up the argument that the stress of being homeless can accelerate one’s mental issues. I worked in a coffee shop there and I definitely got to know the “locals”. I think for some of them the responsibility of taking their medications with the addition of the necessary paperwork to afford them may have been too much. Many of them were harmless but you could tell when they weren’t taking care of themselves. Some kind of assisted living or probationary officers to check up on them may be useful.