20% of New York retail space is sitting vacant

A study conducted by Douglas Elliman Real Estate found that one in five New York retail spaces is sitting vacant; these spaces are boarded up and attract vandalism, drug-dealing, and other unsavory activities. The rate has more than tripled since 2016. Read the rest

America's big cities are increasingly home to people living in their cars

In King County (which encompasses Seattle), the number of people living in their cars surged by 46% in the past year; and other big cities are catching up: LA, San Francisco, Portland, etc. Read the rest

The housing market in America's most expensive cities is imploding

From San Jose to Austin to Portland to Seattle (to name just a few), house prices are slumping, inventories are ballooning, and not-a-Nobel-Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller -- famed for spotting bubbles before they burst -- says "This could be the very beginning of a turning point." Read the rest

Which windowless American buildings are secret AT&T/NSA listening posts?

In 2016, Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke published a long, Snowden-derived investigation into AT&T's secret NSA listening station in New York City, and AT&T's extensive complicity in mass, warrantless surveillance on Americans and foreigners. Read the rest

We know how to fix homelessness, we just won't do it

The largest, wealthiest cities in America are filling up with tent cities -- especially on the west coast, where East Coast style right-to-shelter laws are rare -- and if the spectacle of human misery doesn't alarm you, perhaps you should be thinking about communicable disease epidemics. Read the rest

The Rent's Too Damned High: 15,000 words on the ways real-estate speculation and inequality have killed NYC

Harper's has published The Death of a Once Great City, Kevin Baker's beautifully written, 15,000 word, non-comprehensive list of all the ways that raising the rents in New York City (something that was enabled by the related phenomena of the increasing wealth of the global rich and the influence of property developers on New York City's planning) has squeezed all the juice out of the city, evicting its people and its businesses in favor of "land banked" condos and co-op units that serve as "an investment, a pied-à-terre, a bolt-hole, a strongbox" -- and whose only viable retail is chain pharmacies and ATMs. Read the rest

LA's high-tech, thoughtful water management is cause for cautious optimism about adapting to climate change

Southern California is almost totally dependent on Sierra snowpack and the Colorado River for its water, and both sources are endangered by climate change, even as SoCal's cycle of long droughts and catastrophic, torrential rains gets more extreme thanks to climate change. Read the rest

Chinese city has a "zombie walkway" for slow-walking smartphone users

The city of Xi'an in Shaanxi province has designated one of the sidewalks on Yanta Road for "phubbers" -- slow-walking smartphone users who shuffle while they read and text. Read the rest

Last night was Manhattanhenge: It. Was. Glorious.

I'm obsessed with Manhattanhenge, the two nights a year when the sunset aligns with the prevailing east-west streets of the New York City grid, a phenomenon that Neil deGrasse Tyson named in 1992. Read the rest

Remembering the NYC Citibike backlash, on their fifth anniversary

Five years ago, New Yorkers got to participate in the city's first bikeshare experiment, the Citibike, and people were very worried! Read the rest

Hollow bookends that contain dioramae of Tokyo's narrow alleyways

Tokyo artist Monde created a set of bookends for last week's Tokyo Design Festa that are tall, narrow dioramae containing detailed miniatures of the narrow laneways of Tokyo, with street furniture, signage and cobblestones; alas, these don't appear to be production items (and would need some kind of weight or underbook tongues to serve as effective bookends), but they're lovely to look at! Read the rest

Realtor claims Uber and Lyft erode the premium homebuyers pay for good public transit links

Leonard Steinberg, a longstanding New York City luxury property broker, claims that the existence of Uber and Lyft has blunted the premium that buyers were willing to pay to live in neighborhoods with good transit links, because they can afford rideshare cars and use the commute time to work, meaning that commutes are less of a factor in calculating the quality of life (because your day starts when you get into the car, not when you get to your desk). Read the rest

US housing prices skyrocket for homeowners and renters alike

Since the crash of 2008, both home ownership and renting have been getting steadily more expensive, with median house prices rising to levels surpassing pre-crisis levels, while the ballooning private equity megalandlords pushed prices for renters to never-seen levels, using an eviction mill that saw more Americans thrown out of their homes than at any time in history to keep renters paying. Read the rest

Oakland passes groundbreaking municipal law requiring citizen oversight of local surveillance

Oakland, California -- a city across the bay from San Francisco whose large African-American population has struggled with gentrification and police violence for decades -- has a long reputation for police corruption and surveillance. Read the rest

100 US Mayors sign a pledge to boycott ISPs that commit Net Neutrality violations

As states pass a wave of laws barred non-neutral ISPs from providing services to state agencies, more than 100 US mayors have pledged to disqualify non-neutral ISPs from getting city contracts as well. Read the rest

China escalates the war on jaywalkers with automated shouting laser/squirtguns tied to motion-sensors

Chinese authorities hate jaywalkers and they've decided to use technology to end the practice; in Shenzhen, jaywalkers are identified with facial recognition and sent threatening texts while their faces are displayed on oversized nearby LED screens; in Daye, Hubei province, shouting robotic squirt-guns target and soak anyone who attempts to walk into an intersection against the lights. Read the rest

Eviction Lab: a comprehensive database of every eviction proceeding in America for the past 16 years

The Eviction Lab is a collaboration between Princeton University and Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City Paperback; the lab's team gathered the court records of ever landlord-tenant proceeding in every court in every county in America for the past 16 years. Read the rest

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