Cities: October 2006 Archives

Forgotten no more

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Hearty congratulations to Kevin Walsh, webmaster of Forgotten NY, a site devoted to the physical remnants of decades and centuries past in the five boroughs and environs -- old neon, abandoned subway stations, abandoned diners, humpback street signs (think Sesame Street), vanished streets, ghost ads -- and that's just scratching the surface. It's a site you can explore for hours.

Kevin's years of diligent research have spawned a book of the same title. Forgotten New York: Views of a Lost Metropolis, published by Collins, made its debut last month in hardcover and paperback. Kevin has a page devoted to the book's release party, held at a Greenwich Village pub that was once a speakeasy. Naturally, Kevin provides a short history of the bar, its famous customers, and explains how the term "86" is connected to the place.

Time Out New York put the book on its cover, with a feature story and several sidebars. And Kevin's cousin, Tom Paul, posted a web scavenger hunt as a contest. While the contest is long over, the five questions he asks will send you searching through looking for the answers, giving you an overview of the hidden treasures you'll find there.

New Urban Tulsaism

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Urban Tulsa Weekly has a bright and shiny new website!

All the links in my archive category are now broken! But it's worth it! (And they'll be easy enough to fix -- it will just take time.)

(There's a really simple forwarding trick they could do to fix all the broken links on the server side.)

Here's this week's column, part 6 in the series dealing with The Channels proposal, this week asking about the best way to create a more pedestrian-friendly city, learning a lesson from the success of a waterfront development in Florida.

When I posted my entry, Will the real New Urbanism please stand up?, I also e-mailed the Congress for the New Urbanism to ask them what they knew about this website called That's the site that comes up as the first result on a Google search of the term "New Urbanism," but which contains a lot of radical rhetoric that goes well beyond anything I've heard advocated by a new urbanist planner or architect.

In response to my e-mail, I received a reply from Steve Filmanowicz, Communications Director for the Congress for the New Urbanism (emphasis added by me):

Thanks for contacting us and alerting us to the new content at the site, is an independent, one-person operation with no ties to the Congress for the New Urbanism and little to no apparent following among New Urbanists. The site is run by a person named Andy Kunz who registered the domain name years ago. Because of the confusion the site creates, and the misimpression it leaves with some visitors that it is a source of authoritative information about New Urbanism, CNU has asked him to surrender the domain name. Since CNU refused Kunz' demand of $30,000 in exchange for the rights to the domain, the site remains in his control, unfortunately.

Your blog entry featured an accurate and insightful description of New Urbanism, whereas offers a distorted portrayal. While there are many environmental benefits associated with the compact, walkable neighborhood-based development promoted by New Urbanists (see information on the LEED-ND project at, the calls for things such as bans on airport expansions and road extensions and mandates for widespread installations of solar roof panels are independent positions of Mr. Kunz that further reveal that his site is a highly unreliable source of information about its namesake.

As I mentioned previously, the authoritative source of information about the New Urbanist approach to architecture and urban planning is the Congress for the New Urbanism, and that organization's website is Mr. Filmanowicz said in his e-mail that a new and improved CNU website is to be released by November.

It appears to me that Andy Kunz is a cybersquatter, holding the domain name hostage. In fact, I wonder if he really is an overzealous environmentalist, or if he is deliberately posting these draconian ideas as a way to embarass CNU into paying him for the domain name.

Given the likelihood of confusion -- indeed, actual confusion, as Kunz's views have been attributed to the New Urbanist movement as a whole -- I wonder if there is a basis for the CNU to take legal action against Kunz, at the very least to require him to post a disclaimer on every page.

If not, Mr. Kunz has discovered an ingenious way to make an organization's life miserable: Grab a domain name that would logically belong to that organization, make it look professional and add enough detail to make it appear to the casual websurfer that this is an authoritative site about said group. (But carefully avoid stating that you are speaking on behalf of the group.) Then notify the group of your ransom demand. If they refuse to pay, add some off-the-wall content that would harm their reputation (but plausible enough so that the site still seems authoritative) and raise the price. Continue to raise the stakes until the victim pays up. The same strategy could be used against a public figure, such as a candidate for office.

I've got to hope that there are legal remedies to protect groups against that kind of attack.

This morning I heard some talk on the radio about "New Urbanism." The backers of The Channels -- the $788 million plan to build islands in the middle of the Arkansas River -- have made reference to the New Urbanist movement.

The discussion I heard this morning linked New Urbanism with radical environmentalism -- specifically, support for Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, calls for moratoria on road and airport construction and expansion, putting solar panels on every building in America, and calls to divert the U. S. defense budget for the complete remaking of the American landscape.

I've been hearing about and reading about New Urbanism for the last 10 years or so, and that's not the movement I'm familiar with. The New Urbanism I know is about relearning lessons from our past about how to build neighborhoods, towns, and cities that are pleasant and safe places to live.

The traditional approach to urban development got lost around the end of World War II, when the theoreticians took over and began to use the power of government to make city development fit their theories. The theoreticians were more interested in putting things in neat categories, rather than understanding and appreciating the complexity present in a healthy city. Government engaged in market-distorting activities that subsidized the construction of new suburbs and the building of infrastructure to serve those new suburbs over the restoration of existing neighborhoods and existing infrastructure. Zoning codes required the strict separation of homes from shops from workplaces, on the grounds that there was something inherently unsanitary about living within walking distance of a grocery store. New neighborhoods were built without basic civic infrastructure like small parks and sidewalks. When older, traditional neighborhoods were devalued by the government-subsidized construction of new neighborhoods, or split in two by Federally-funded freeways, the Federal government then provided funds to bulldoze those traditional neighborhoods, often to remake them after the suburban model. And Federal and local government policies have in turn molded private lending and development practices to encourage more of the same.

The post-WWII approach to development, which has dominated local and Federal government policies for over 50 years, has more in common with Communist centralized planning than the free market and traditional American values.

New Urbanism is an attempt to relearn the traditional way of building cities and adapt it to modern circumstances. New Urbanists are involved in preserving traditional, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods where they exist and in creating new developments in the traditional style, while incorporating the kind of modern amenities that we expect in our homes and workplaces. Sometimes these new developments are infill, replacing obsolete industrial or commercial sites ("brownfields", dead malls, rundown strip shopping centers) or vacant land in the midst of a city.

Some examples of New Urbanist projects:

Here in the Tulsa area, New Urbanism's influence can be seen in the proposed East End development and the Village at Central Park, and in the neighborhood plans for Brookside, 6th Street (the Pearl District), Brady Village, and east Tulsa's 21st Street corridor.

When I think of New Urbanism, the names of three urban planners immediately come to mind: Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Peter Calthorpe. These planners have been involved in countless innovative new developments and redevelopments around the world.

While I've heard New Urbanists tout the environmental benefits of more compact traditional neighborhoods, I haven't heard them advocating any radical anti-human environmental policies. So I was surprised at what I heard on the radio this morning, and I did a Google search on the phrase "New Urbanism."

The first hit was a site called Sure enough, here were all the radical proposals that were being mentioned on the air this morning.

I did some digging through the site, but I never could find out the name of the individual or organization who had set up the site. I went to to find out who owned it, and this was the result (the same info was provided for admin and tech contacts):

Registrant ID: 39693217-NSI
Registrant Name: New LLC
Registrant Organization: NewUrbanism.Org, LLC
Registrant Street1: 824 King St, Suite 103
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City: Alexandria
Registrant State/Province: VA
Registrant Postal Code: 22314
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.1231231234
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:

Note that the phone number is fake, and you can't find a phone number or a name anywhere on the website.

The real, credible website for the New Urbanist movement is, the Congress for the New Urbanism. You can read a history of the organization, founded in 1993, here. You will not find a radical Earth First manifesto here. In fact, here is a Flash-animated tour explaining what New Urbanism is all about.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Cities category from October 2006.

Cities: September 2006 is the previous archive.

Cities: November 2006 is the next archive.

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