review

Book Review: The New Urban Crisis by Richard Florida

So a lot of people have recently written about the urban crises of this era, whether in support of the persistent displacement or acknowledging that there is an unsubstantiated gap in the recipients of city amenities. Back in the early 2000s, people tended to believe that while density was reasonable, sprawl was inevitable and one could not force people to give up personal autonomy. Fortunately, Richard Florida, one of the more influential planners of this era, has recognized¬†that sustainable cities and thriving neighborhoods are created by direct action, not by “good intentions.”

He begins talking about his childhood and how his family moved from one neighborhood to another for a chance at better schools. Also, he describes the cost of the house, the types of jobs that were available, and the communities that were allowed to flourish. Of course, this was during the rise of the suburb and White Flight, which he appropriately documents and chides, as the high cost in infrastructure alone makes reversal improbable. Looking at the past realistically and seeing what was not visible when he was a child makes this account more honest than many from the dominant narrative.

Also, he describes the situation in the United States and the United Kingdom, which makes more sense than one would consider at first glance. As many of the segregation tactics in the US came from the UK during the inception of the US, so did the perception of the spatial feudalism. By placing the wealthy near all the resources and forcing the poor to navigate not only through their communities but through the wealthy communities as well creates double barriers to success. During this era, such barriers exist in the forms of highways, gates, hiring algorithms, and business placement.

Finally, Florida has joined in the call for the elites of megatropolises to be more inclusive. Without saying it specifically, Florida has compared the rise of what he calls the “creative class” to trickle-down economics: they took all the resources and have made it impossible for anyone else to acquire them. He discusses both the racial and socioeconomic segregation and the impossibility of networking with people who seclude themselves.

Basically, Florida states that the creative class needs to live in the world and stop avoiding the marginalized. Failure to address problems does not eliminate them.

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