ICE and the DEA have secretly hidden cameras in some streetlights

Government procurement data reveals that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Agency have each spent tens of thousands of dollars on products from Houston's Cowboy Streetlight Concealments LLC, which specializes in fake streetlight housings designed to conceal surveillance cameras. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling on architecture, design, science fiction, futurism and involuntary parks

In 1918, there was plenty of speculation about 2018; in 2018, no one is talking about 2118. Bruce Sterling discusses the relationship of industrial design to science fiction; the New Aesthetic and Turinese architecture; and many other subjects with Benjamin Bratton. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

San Francisco spends $3.1m/year on homeless toilets and $65m/year cleaning up poop

San Francisco's housing crisis is also (of course) a homelessness crisis, and homelessness crises beget public defecation crises -- and San Francisco has a serious public defecation crisis. Read the rest

Study blames Uber/Lyft for San Francisco traffic, Uber/Lyft blames Amazon, propose surge pricing

A new report from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority attributes the majority (51%-73%) of the prodigious 2010-2016 increase in San Francisco traffic congestion on Uber and Lyft; the rideshare companies dispute the finding and say that it's really down to increased Amazon Prime delivery vehicles and Lyft has offered to work with the city on "congestion pricing" whereby use of the public roads are taxed at the same rate for both the city's incredibly wealthy tech elite and struggling underclass, with the intention of limiting private vehicle use. Read the rest

Homeless people in San Francisco are hotwiring electric scooters

San Francisco's giant fleet of semi-illegal electric scooters have come to symbolize the tech industry's worst excesses, inspiring all kinds of creative resistance Read the rest

Aw, shit: New York's McNally Jackson Books is closing its Nolita store

New York City's amazing McNally Jackson Books is closing its flagship bookstore on Prince Street in Nolita; the store is a neighborhood fixture and a hub of literary events (I've appeared there); they also sport a cafe and a book-printing machine. Read the rest

New York's luxury real-estate market is crashing

New York is a great city that has been hollowed out by real-estate speculation, where the conversion of housing to safe-deposit boxes in the sky has pushed out the city's people and the city's businesses, who can't compete with financiers and oligarchs who value property as an investment, rather than as part of the fabric of a city. Read the rest

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

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