Green Infrastructer

With the increase of climate change, cities all around the world have started implementing new and exciting ways to plan for these environmental issues. We have seen the catastrophic results that come with the change in climate and if we don’t do anything soon the problem will just get worse. Many cities have slowly shifted to become greener but I feel that not enough has been done. We still depend too much on cars that emit toxic greenhouse gasses, and our cities are just simply not able to keep up with the number of toxins we put in the air. One city, however, has made great strides to make sure that their future is as sustainable as can be. This city is Berlin.1320_effects-image

In the Rummelsburg section of Berlin, they have made the shift towards what is called a sponge city. In a sponge city, buildings and infrastructure are designed so that the city itself can mimic nature. When it rains, the city actually absorbs the water instead of relying on a sewer system to get the rain out of the area. All of the buildings in the area are topped with green roofs, green walls, and swales that aid in absorbing and making sure the water evaporates in the city. Once this water evaporates, it cools down the city drastically by providing a natural cool breeze which reduces the amount of air conditioning in the city.

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Urban Design (Battery park NYC)

As stated by Levy in the book Contemporary Urban Design, “Urban design falls between the professions of planning and Architecture.  It deals with the large scale organization and design of the city, with the massing and organization of buildings and the space between them, but not with the design of the individual buildings.”

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What this says to me is more about how people occupy and use a space opposed to how buildings are constructed.  The author uses the case of Battery park, New York City to illustrate some principals of his quote.  Battery park City is an infilled area (1976) on the south western part of Manhattan.  The area represents a successful urban design effort to integrate living space, commercial space, retail space, and recreational space.  I personally lived in Battery park for one year in 2000 my building was Liberty View.  Spending one year of my life as a child here was a unique experience, from the rest of New York City.  The area offered a river walk which is lined with parks, open spaces, water features & fountains, and plenty of places to recreate.  I remember having my 8th birthday in one of these parks where friends from school came to celebrate and play games in the open space.  The area was incredibly green for being in New York City, people would be rollerblading, exercising, walking, fishing, sunbathing, you name it.  Even though I was 8 years old my parents would grant me permission to walk the river walk by myself and without a cell phone.  The area was incredibly safe and well kept, with security always near riding bicycles and waste receptacles always in site.

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Compared to the rest of New York battery park was a bubble, the Battery was gleaming with life and positive energy.  But venturing out of the battery as an 8 year old was worrying.  The battery felt like a community where people were looking out for you but, the rest of New York did not have the same feeling.  It was scary venturing out because immediately you notice the loss of vegetation and the unbroken concrete and steal dominants the public view.  People’s attitudes reflected the change of scenery, people would walk straight into me “a child” and I remember losing  items from my pockets.  The fumes from industry and cars were nauseating and noise from all the hustle and bustle dominated the landscape.

Battery park was a stupendous place to live in New York City, the design itself had an influence on people’s behavior, and well being.  The layout of the buildings was visually stimulating and interesting.  The area was well though out from the perspective of the pedestrian, with a focus on paths and bike lanes and green spaces in between.  I haven’t lived in other areas of New York City but, my time spent at the Battery was hopeful, healthy and fun.

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Future of Transportation in the United States

 

As a future urban planner, there are many aspects of city planning that interests me greatly. One of those aspects is transportation. Throughout history, you can see how many different modes of transportation have been used and the direct effect these have had on the economy and the citizens. When railway technology took over the east coast, people swarmed to these areas due to the sheer economic development that came along with this fairly simple way of traveling. After World War II, however, things took a turn for what I believe is the worst. Traveling by car became the number one method of travel, which still holds true to this day. Major cities became blighted and people that relocated to the suburbs were separated from everything.

In the United States, around 86% of people rely on private vehicles to commute to work18kxxtwxg4952jpg and other places. While car ownership has been declining nationwide, it’s still at a staggering 91%. This overdependence on cars leaves our roads and highways overcrowded, dilapidated, and just overall inefficient. In Contemporary Urban Planning, John M Levy states that postwar suburbanization and the increase in car ownership were complementary phenomena. Widespread automobile ownership facilitates suburbanization and on the other hand, moving from the city to suburbs increases one’s need for an automobile. This has caused the U.S to suffer when it comes to public transportation.crowded-highway_1024xx2896-1629-0-158

Transportation and overall infrastructure in the U.S need a major overhaul. Due to the overdependence on cars, people felt no need to use transportation systems and unless you live in a major city like New York, you won’t receive a decent rail system. Many systems in place fail to provide a safe method of travel for people. Over the past couple of years, there have been numerous train derailments which have led to multiple fatalities. As the years’ progress, however, we see more technology being innovated that can change transportation for the better.

Even though a lot of issues need to be tackled when it comes to implementing a new robust nationwide transportation system, I am incredibly excited for what the future holds. Elon Musk has been one of the biggest proponents of new methods of travel. His plan, the Hyperloop System, will completely revolutionize transportation in the U.S. With this new system, users will travel around not by rail, but by tubes. This new concept would be able to move passengers from city to city, state to state, or even country to country at a fraction of the cost of air travel.

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While it might be a while before this is steadily available in throughout the country, I feel that the Hyperloop system is what transportation should aim to be like in the future. Imagine being able to live in New York and getting to Los Angeles in less than hours. With the Hyperloop system, this is possible. I imagine a future where stations are spread out throughout the states and users can simply hop on and travel with no worries.shutterstock_532978147

 

 

Police power and Eminent domain

I can see that the government plays a key deciding role in how land use is allocated across urban and suburban environments. An example illustrating the issue dates back to 1887 in a court case Mugler v Kansas where a brewery was forced to close its doors. The local governments decided that the brewery was not in the interest of the public regarding health and well being. The local governments exercised police power to close the brewery without compensation for the owner of said business. If the government body decided to use eminent domain the business owner would need to be compensated for the taking of his privately owned business but, that was simply not the case.

A man by the name of Edward M. Bassett was regarded as the father of “zoning” here in the united states, and zoning was indeed useful and necessary for the growth of early cities.  Early buildings in Manhattan after elevators became popular would be built like children’s  building blocks, boxy and with no setbacks.  These buildings were right up against the streets and would permanently eclipse adjacent buildings in perpetual shade.  This action was leading to major losses in capitol for adjacent buildings.  The results from this complaints forced the institution of setbacks as the building increased in height, allowing for sunlight to reach ground level around a tapered spear of the top of a building.  This building design is still seen today in older and newer buildings in Manhattan.

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In 1926 we saw a famous court case the city of Eucild v Amber realty.  In this court case we saw the village of Euclid deny the Amber realty company permission to build a commercial structure in a residential zone.  The court ruled in favor of Euclid, and following the court case municipal governments expanded the power of municipalities to zone and regulate the use of property and privately owned land.  Another court case pertaining to zoning would not be brought up for another 50 years.

It is important to realize that privately owned land is beneficial to local governments for collecting taxes to increase revenue for city spending.  There must be a balance between what a private owner of land can do with his property as long as it falls within what the city deems worthy for land use, business, public health etc.  The over regulation and strictness of certain zoning can be deeply detrimental to private business.  Zoning needs to become for fluid with an emphasis on more mixed use buildings.  And local governments should force private developers to incorporate LEED practices to make a better more sustainable city for the future.

The 4th Regional Plan and New Jersey

As much as individual projects play an integral role in developing our regions as parts, regional plans themselves (and other plans of increasing scale) are also essential to  providing a larger scope for future endeavors. These regional plans lay out the framework for what many would consider to be a higher standard of development and planning for the rest of the region they cover. The philosophies implanted in these ideas can help serve planners in the future in creating a better vision for their locales.

fourthplan.org’s depiction of the Tri-state area and focal points

Previously, the Third Regional plan dated from 1996 was of a similar scope; enhance transit services and protect open spaces. The Fourth Regional Plan is extensive and ambitious, covering the area of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut (the focus of the Regional Planning Association or RPA). It cites values of equity, health, prosperity, and sustainability. A large part of this plan has specified efforts towards the repair and improvement of existing facilities and services to the public. This is an essential area of concern; rarely is there sufficient resources for a complete rebuild from the ground up of. Of course on a large scale, the core elements of this plan all involve redevelopment of entire municipalities and counties.

Additionally, the plan extensively references situations regarding climate change and ecological issues. Seeing as the issue of global warming has skyrocketed in the past two decades, it is beneficial that this plan can make ends meet with its proposals. By instilling “green” ways of thinking and development on a larger scale, this influence can hopefully trickle down to smaller localities in their own planning endeavors.

The nine locations focused on by the plan

Another core element of this plan is the planned redevelopment of the Northeast Corridor, among other components of mass transit. Fortunately in this part of the nation, the rail and road systems are decently supplanted and see frequent use, but the seemingly eternal issues of congestion and delays have wrecked havoc upon commuters of virtually any area. As a student with an interest in transportation, this subject matter fascinates me extensively, and I would be very interested to see what is in store in the coming decades for this region. Subways, bus terminals, city streets, and of course rail are some of the many areas covered under this plan. This naturally impacts regions beyond the Tri-state area also, as rail and air travel have existed largely as focal points in this region of the nationwide network of transport.

Regional planning offers us insight and perspective as to what our future may look like as inhabitants of New Jersey. It is undoubtedly a far more difficult and seemingly insurmountable task to try and plan an entire region as opposed to just a small town. Nevertheless, there is still a necessity for such a plan to exist, for without a bigger picture in mind there will be significantly more discontent among the people. We can hopefully aspire to see plans like this ignite a passion in the rest of us planners to help shape the future of our work.

Sources: http://www.njfuture.org/2017/12/12/fourth-regional-plan-nj/

http://fourthplan.org

Affordable Housing in Lawrenceville

Lawrence township, in Mercer county, is a center-point of the county. It is within easy reach of areas of mass transit and business such as Trenton and Hamilton, as well as popular areas to visit such as Princeton and Hopewell. Covering 22 square miles of land, the township is a fairly large diverse mixture of rural and suburban development. The unincorporated community of Lawrenceville is home to several communities and is commonly used to refer to parts of the township as a whole. One of the projects currently in the works for the township is the affordable housing in specified areas for people falling into specific income brackets.

Photo of Laurie Chauncey Trail in January

 

This is in effect, a form of growth limitation, enables the township to retain refined control over people who are persistent with living there, but fall into a particular level of income that would be otherwise disadvantageous to them. It does however, also enable there to be some growth as well; the township benefits from having this housing occupied financially for small businesses as well as larger ones.

This program appeals to both purchasers and renters, with many units available for outright purchase. Several of these units are also age restricted, which further refines the availability to the population. Lawrence Township as a whole is generally considered to be a fairly desirable place to live in, featuring a diverse landscape and many benefits of a higher income area (comparable to Princeton).

We learned about the impacts of urban sprawl as well as growth limitation in New Jersey extensively in this class. At best, it can be described as a necessary balance that should be maintained at the satisfaction of those personally and financially involved in the area. It is near impossible to find a “perfect” solution that is 100% equitable for all parties, but one can still make strides in the right direction with thoughtful and comprehensive planning. Lawrence Township is a good example of this; covering a diverse range of incomes but still providing housing to those who desire it. Additionally, the township maintains a strong preservation of farms and historic land that has land-marked the community.

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Eagles Chase community near Franklin Corner Rd. in Lawrenceville. One of several affiliated with the affordable housing program.

Source: http://lawrencetwp.com/affhousing.html

Mercer PSE&G Generating Station Closure

Just earlier this year, the last of PSE&G’s coal power plants was formally shut down, following 57 years of service to the region. This closure represents part of a much larger step in the overall movement towards more equitable and efficient forms of energy production.

This closure comes following over 6 years of investment and work done to upgrade the plant (alongside several others in the region) at costs of over $1 billion to PSE&G. Nevertheless, the viability of this plant has still been eclipsed by the advent of newer gas fired generating stations.

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Mercer Generating Station viewed from the Delaware

While several attributions have been made to this closure, such as environmentalists crediting themselves with their protest, PSE&G has found that fracking has actually been their biggest competitor in recent years. While the plant has only recently been closed, it had been inactive and producing little to no power for quite some time now. This was not the case some twenty-plus years ago; outputting 632 Megawatts, Mercer Generating Station was a prime participant in its heyday.

Front end loaders busy at work clearing the remaining supply of coal

In the months to come, the remaining supply of coal at the station will be loaded onto barges and resold back into the market from which it once came as a surplus supply. The employees are quite content with their transitions as well, feeling suitably prepared to either retire or take on new positions within PSE&G.

This is a key element in the concept of energy production as covered by our lectures in class, as coal powered energy production has been perhaps one of the most well known methods in recent history. Of course, in the past few decades, this has begun to evolve as new methods have taken a foothold in the race for dominance in this field. Issues of environmental concern have always taken a center seat with coal-fired power plants, seeing their obvious destructive nature to the environment. The question for many politicians and bureaucrats quickly becomes, “is it worth it financially to make the switch”. Fortunately for environmentalists, and people as a whole, there is still a strong push towards greener methods.

Future plans for the large plot of land the station occupies include the possibility of its replacement with a solar panel field, which would certainly be a welcome addition to the somewhat deprecated and dirty wetlands.

Source: http://www.philly.com/philly/business/energy/pseg-shuts-down-its-last-n-j-coal-plants-its-just-economics-20170530.html

Is Amazon’s HQ2 Worth?

Economic development is a very important part of planning for a city. As described in Contemporary Urban Planning, one very common approach taken by city officials is to try to keep as many big companies as they can in the city. The logic is a big company employs many citizens of the city and therefore is the source of a large amount of income tax and economic vitality of a city. The deal that struck out to me the most was the deal that Washington State made to Boeing to build its 777x production line in an area near Seattle. The deal is estimated to be worth about $8.7 billion and last up to 2040. It is by far the biggest tax break in our country’s history and given the tax breaks that it received in the last two year that $8.7 billion dollar estimate might have been an underestimate. This starts to call into question the value of these deals especially since Boeing is still cutting down on the number of their employees.

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Boeing’s Production Line

This brings us to the flashiest deal out on the market right now, Amazon’s HQ2. It will bring in 50,000 employees at an average income of $100,000 a year. Those numbers are so extremely attractive to any city. It’s so attractive in fact, it seems as if all the big cities (and even some not so big cities) have thrown in a bid to try and get HQ2.

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Amazon’s HQ in Seattle

Now this isn’t a bad thing, not yet. A lot of the cities haven’t put out official numbers, but from the few that have we are approaching a concerning area. For better or for worse, New Jersey is  a prime example of why it is concerning. A few months ago, Governor Christie proposed up to $7 billion in tax incentives, for Amazon to place their HQ2 somewhere in New Jersey. That proposal is very similar to the record breaking $8.7 billion deal that Washington proposed in 2013 and is now not really making its investment back.

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Governor Christie announcing proposed tax breaks

Sure, Amazon says it will make an investment of $5 billion dollars wherever it ends up. And yes, 50,000 times $100,000 is a lot of additional income for a city. But these are the numbers provided by Amazon in order to get the best incentives that they can get. It is up to the cities to look beyond the flashiness of Amazon and on paper calculations of the benefits and really consider the implications of such large tax breaks as well as potential costs. As someone who really wants a job at Amazon, I would love to have HQ2 in NJ, but I would much rather the state and Newark (or whatever city has the best chance) to make the best decision for it’s residents.

Sources:

“Amazon Announces 238 Proposals for HQ2.” Amazon.com, Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/b?node=17044620011.
Bagli, Charles V. “Newark Says, Hey Amazon, Look Over Here.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Oct. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/16/nyregion/newark-amazon-headquarters.html.
Levy, John M.. Contemporary Urban Planning. 11th ed. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 

 

 

Demarest, NJ – The Future

The town I grew up in and still live in today is called Demarest, NJ.  It is a small town no larger than 2.1 miles squared that is comprised mostly of affluent people who are white or Asian.  Living in Demarest for about 16 years now I have watched the town change and shift forms over the years.  One example of change is that around 5 or 6 years ago the entire downtown area received a re-haul of the sidewalk quality.  The old cobblestone looking bricks were torn up and a brand new pristine sidewalk was created out of sandy looking cobblestones that are much prettier.  Additionally, many new street lamps were added to the main corridor that  leads through the downtown.  Limo-taxi-car-demarest-nj-07627.jpg

While these changes are mostly for Aesthetic reasons, it also follows that an increase in light reduces crime and provides safer streets at night.  The future of Demarest is a bright one but in order for the town to thrive, more commercial space is needed.  In the downtown area, there are about 5 shops.  There is a post office, a bank, a Dunkin Donuts, a Pizzeria and a deli.  Beyond that there is not much else in Demarest downtown.  I think the reason for this is that Demarest strives to be a residential town that is beautiful and has high property values while avoiding the congestion caused by having large commercial areas.  The traffic after schools is so bad already to add commercial business would be a mess.

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Demarest needs a revitalization in my opinion.  The nice gazebo that sits in the open field next to the duck pond is pretty, but it should be a garden area.  It could also be an area where tons of trees are planted.  Ideas like these would make Demarest even more green than it is now without compromising the traffic patterns or effecting the citizens negatively.  All in all, Demarest needs to become more green to stand up to the test of time.

 

Planning for Protection

Last year, in 2016, there were approximately 37,461 recorded traffic deaths in the United States.  These accidents consist of head on collisions, vehicles hitting trees, pedestrians being run over etc.  In the modern world, with ever-increasing population, there must be systems put into place to protect pedestrians as well as drivers from themselves.  The first and most important issue is to stop accidental traffic deaths as they account for the majority of deaths.  The second issue is to curb domestic terrorism which has been seen in many forms but one common form is that of driving vehicles into crowded areas filled with pedestrians.  maxresdefault.jpg

The first issue is ironically much harder to solve.  In order to curb traffic accidents and traffic death there are several solutions.  First, educating the public is key.  68% of Americans wear their seat belts while the other 32% remains unbuckled.  By raising this percentage of seat-belt-wearers to 90%, approximately 5,500 lives would be saved each year, bringing the 37,461 number closer to 36,900.  Seat belts are extremely important and are designed to protect passengers in any number of car crashes.  Still, it is difficult to force people to wear seat belts even when laws are in place that require it.  This paternalistic law is, in my pinon, one of the best ways to make people abide by the rules however.

While the traffic deaths caused by domestic accidents account for a far greater number than those committed by terrorists, it is worth looking at ways to reduce both numbers I think.  Since terrorism is so sudden and out of the blue it is extremely difficult to stop every single act.  For example, on Oct. 31, a disgruntled terrorist drove a truck through a crowded area in NYC and ran over multiple people, killing 8.  This type of act is hard to stop because there are so many cars and trucks on the roads and to surveil every single one would be time-consuming and likely against civil rights.  This being said, bollards are the solution.  Bollards are steel and concrete poles that stick up from pedestrian inhabited areas that immediately destroy incoming traffic.  These work well and immediately stop any trucks or cars from entering the area they are blocked from, they also kill the occupants of the vehicle.

 

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