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1 day 5 hours ago

On June 14, Stanlee Allyn Holbrook, a 26-year-old black mother, parked her car on the Homestead Bridge in Pittsburgh and then took her life by jumping into the Monongehela River below. Her three children were left in the car. A neighbor, Joanna D’Amico, told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Lacretia Wimbley that Holbrook was a disciplined caregiver for her kids. She didn’t understand why Holbrook committed suicide because she “didn’t show a sign that something was wrong.”

It may have been a sign that there is something tremendously wrong with Pittsburgh, though, for black women.

The city of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission released a white paper this week that shows just how stark African Americans’ chances for survival are in Pittsburgh. The findings for black women in particular are troubling. In evaluating how well life is going for Pittsburgh residents along the lines of gender and race, the study finds that white men and women are mostly enjoying either average or above-average standards of livability compared to other racial groups in the city.

However, “Pittsburgh is considerably less livable for black men than other similar cities … particularly true when it comes to health and employment outcomes,” reads the study. “Pittsburgh is arguably the most unlivable for black women.”

The word choice here is an obvious nod to the various “most livable city” superlatives that Pittsburgh has picked up in recent years. In fact, the University of Pittsburgh researchers who produced the study created an “Index of Ranked Livability” to measure how abundantly or poorly each demographic is doing within the broad categories of health, poverty/income, employment, and education, and along several dozen sub-categories.

The study focuses on six population groups: white men and women, black men and women, and the men and women of a third hybrid racial group called AMLON, an acronym for “Asian, Multiracial, Latinx, Other, Native American” (These racial categories are too small in numbers in Pittsburgh to be analyzed separately without compromising privacy concerns, according to the study).

The researchers looked at not only how each of these groups fared in livability compared to other race and gender population groups within Pittsburgh, but also in comparison to their peer demographic dates across 89 cities of similar size and characteristics nationwide. They also compare the index of racial and gender inequalities within Pittsburgh to those found in similar cities as well.

Overall, what they found was that Pittsburgh is a pretty average city along each of the livability categories, if you’re white. White Pittsburgh residents are doing about as well or bad as white people in other comparable cities. But for African Americans, here’s where the signs show trouble. Black people in just about every other comparable city in the U.S. are doing far better in terms of health, income, employment, and educational outcomes than black people living in Pittsburgh.

The signals are even more distressing for black girls and women, who suffer from higher poverty rates, birth defect rates, death rates, unemployment rates, and school arrest rates than black girls and women in just about every other city examined in this study. Outcomes for black men were only slightly better than for black women in just about every regard.

As University of Pittsburgh sociology professor Junia Howell, co-author of the white paper, told Public Source, “What this means is that if Black residents got up today and left and moved to the majority of any other cities in the U.S. … their life expectancy would go up, their income would go up, their educational opportunities for their children would go up, as well as their employment.”

We don’t know what drove Stanlee Allyn Holbrook to take her life earlier this summer. What we do know from the study is that in Pittsburgh, black women are more likely to commit suicide than black women in most other cities—distinct from white men who commit suicide at rates lower than white men in comparable cities.

It has been reported that, a year before she died, Holbrook gave birth to a premature baby in a city where 18 out of every 1,000 pregnancies for black women end in fetal death, compared to 9 in a 1,000 pregnancies for white women. Pittsburgh’s black fetal mortality rate is higher than it is in 94 percent of similar cities. The city’s black mothers give birth to babies of low birth weight at twice the rate that white mothers do, and it ranks in the bottom 25 percent of cities for black mothers experiencing low-birth weight for their babies.

Lack of prenatal care doesn’t explain the black women’s reproductive crisis in Pittsburgh. The study finds that black mothers start prenatal treatments at the same time as white and AMLON mothers, at ten weeks. In fact, researchers found that black women on average begin prenatal care sooner than black women do in 92 percent of other cities. Nor are the problems of low birth weight and other defects the result of educational or economic status. The racial disparities on this front existed for black women whether they were college graduates or WIC recipients. “Racial inequality, not education or income, drives the observed inequities,” reads the study.

Once a baby arrives, for white infants and AMLON infants, the chances of surviving past one year are good and better than the chances of babies born in most other cities. Even black male infants fare at about the same rate as black male infants in at least half of other cities. But not black female babies—they have a mortality rate that’s higher than that of black female infants in at least 70 percent of other cities.

But while education and economics don’t seem to affect the likelihood of miscarriage or the baby’s pre-birth survival, they do matter in the lives of black women in general. As far as income goes, black women are working with far less than members of any other racial group, male or female, within Pittsburgh. In fact, white men bring in twice as much income annually as black women in the city. But when it comes to their peers in other places, black women have lower poverty rates in 85 percent of comparable cities than black women in Pittsburgh. In fact, black women have higher median incomes in 90 percent of similar cities than do black Pittsburgh women.

When it comes to unemployment—specifically those outside of the workforce who are actively looking for a job—most of Pittsburgh’s racial groups lag behind their peers in other cities, including white men. But, once again, no one lags like black Pittsburgh women, who have a higher percentage of their population left jobless than black women in 97 percent of other peer cities. The unemployment crisis is also dire for black men, and neither are out of work for lack of trying—the gap between white and black employment in Pittsburgh is higher than that of 85 percent of the other cities studied, leading the report to project that “Pittsburgh’s strikingly low black employment is likely not due to the city’s economy, but the failure of employers to hire black workers who are seeking jobs.”

The one area where African Americans do well in Pittsburgh is educational achievement, particularly among black men. The report notes that there are more college-educated African American men in Pittsburgh than there are in 60 percent of its fellow cities; that ranking rises even higher for black men with graduate degrees.

The caveat here is that, of course, not all black men in Pittsburgh’s grad schools are actually from Pittsburgh. Junia Howell told CityLab that they weren’t “able to distinguish between those who grew up in Pittsburgh from those who relocate to Pittsburgh for college, graduate school, or work.”

For black women in Pittsburgh, the education story is less optimistic: They have lower college completion rates than black women in 60 percent of other comparable cities.  

But before black women in Pittsburgh even get to college, before they become the mothers and the motherless, the employed and the unemployed, they are targeted as teens, often in their own schools. There is no city in Pennsylvania where schools refer students to the police like Pittsburgh, and there are few cities in the United States that do worse when it comes to siccing police on students, no matter the race. But once again, black girls in Pittsburgh schools suffer the worst from this: Pittsburgh refers more black girls to police than is true for 99 percent of similar cities.  

One black woman in Pittsburgh who understands more than most how black boys and girls are overpoliced is Melanie Carter, a prominent Pittsburgh racial justice activist and rapper who goes by the name Black Rapp M.A.D.U.S.A. She works with black youth through a local organization called 1Hood Media. In 2017, she was thrown to the ground and arrested for disorderly conduct by a police officer after she video-recorded cops who were harassing black teenagers at a local movie theater. Her video, which showed a police officer calling the young black people “animals” at the theater, went viral.

The charges against her were dropped earlier this year, and, with the Abolitionist Law Center, Carter is now suing the police department in federal court. But as she told a local media outlet: “We have to re-humanize black women and girls. We have to protect black women and girls.”

It probably didn’t take this Pittsburgh study for her and thousands of black women across the city to realize this.

1 day 5 hours ago

What We’re Following

Pencils down: Today, students across the globe are skipping school, not because of the good weather, but because of the climate: They’re going on strike. With about 2,500 protests planned in 153 countries, the Global Climate Strike aims to put pressure on governments and businesses to take action to address climate change.

The epicenter of the strike is in New York City, where the United Nations is gathering next week to revisit the goals set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. (Vox) The city’s school district has given permission to its 1.1 million students to skip class and join the protest with an original school striker, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. (Gothamist)

Meanwhile protesters plan to march to Representative Nancy Pelosi’s local congressional office in San Francisco. (USA Today) And in Washington, D.C., students will march to Capitol Hill where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is scheduled to address the crowd. Another student strike is planned for next Friday.

Study up with CityLab

Andrew Small


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How to Lead a Parking Policy Reformation

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Mapping the Changing Colors of Fall Across the U.S.

Much of the country won’t see those vibrant oranges and reds until mid-October, which leaves plenty of time for leaf peepers to plan their autumn road trips.

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For Female Entrepreneurs, a Ground-Floor Apartment Is Key

A new study finds that the home-based businesses of poor women in a Colombian city are much more successful when they are located on the street level.

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Walk in the Park

The creators of Park(ing) Day—John Bela, Blaine Merker, and Matthew Passmore—with artist Reuben Margolin at Park(ing) Day 2007, in front of San Francisco City Hall. (Courtesy of John Bela)

Across plenty of cities today, miniature parklets will sprout up in parking spaces, marking the tradition of tactical urbanism known as Park(ing) Day. But did you know that the roots of the word “parking” actually originates from planting trees?

That’s what one former researcher at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation found out while exploring the history of street trees. In 1870, Congress passed legislation that authorized Washington, D.C. to set aside half the width of the street for “parking on either side of the street,” but at the time, the automobile had not even been invented: They were talking about planting trees and smaller plants to create parks for pedestrians. Imagine if Washington had stuck with that streetscape. Members of Congress might have even had a different attitude about D.C. statehood. From the CityLab archive: A Brief History of Park(ing) Day.


What We’re Reading

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio drops his 2020 presidential bid (NPR)

Jeff Bezos unveils Amazon’s plan to tackle climate change (CNBC)

Airbnb says it plans to go public in 2020 (New York Times)

How do buildings contribute to climate change? (Curbed)

Longtime Streetsblog writer Angie Schmitt signs off (Streetsblog)


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1 day 6 hours ago
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Today, as millions of people around the world gather to participate in the youth-led Global Climate Strike, architecture firms are talking about how they can help. According to the grassroots outreach initiative Architects Advocate for Action on Climate Change, more than 330 firms and individuals in architecture and design plan to participate in their local strikes.

Given that buildings account for almost 40 percent of total energy consumption in the United States, architects and designers can make a big impact in global efforts to cut carbon emissions. In fact, members of the American design and construction industry have a responsibility to contribute to the transition from fossil fuels to “a thriving zero-carbon economy,” says the group.

Young people from more than 150 countries are skipping school today as part of a series of protests led by Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg, with the aim of urging world leaders to take aggressive action against climate catastrophe. Among the largest of the protests is expected to take place in New York City, where strikers will be joined by members of American Institute of Architects New York Committee on the Environment.

In the UK, firms like Stanton Williams, Grimshaw and dRMM have joined the strikes, but they’re pledging to do more than just march. Some have promised to do internal reviews of their companies’ carbon footprints, while others will be taking part in industry discussions that can identify measurable changes architects and designers can make.

“At Architects Advocate, we believe the demands of the striking youth are not only reasonable, but that they resonate with our professional interests and commitments,” says Tom Jacobs, co-founder of Architects Advocate for Action on Climate Change. “That’s why we launched the #StandWithGreta campaign in support of their movement. In Chicago, we’ll be meeting at 11:30am at Federal Plaza on September 20 to participate. Other cities around the country will organize to do the same.”

“Architects please join us in standing up for the next generation by supporting the true leaders of our time. Learn more and sign a pledge to #StandWithGreta at architects-advocate.com.”

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[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

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1 day 6 hours ago

CityLab's Sarah Holder joined Rebecca Leber from Mother Jones for an exclusive series of interviews with Pete Buttigieg this week; Leber's story originally appeared on Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Pete Buttigieg wants Americans to understand that the climate crisis isn’t only about encroaching seas and shrinking glaciers—it affects everything and everyone in between.

“Too often, I think our imagination around climate change is confined to the North and the South Pole, but I see it happening right in the middle of America,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor said in an interview Wednesday from his hometown in a brief break from the presidential campaign trail. The day before, Buttigieg unveiled a plan targeting natural disaster response on a campaign trip to Conway, South Carolina, which was devastated by Hurricane Florence in 2018.

When the 37-year-old Democratic presidential candidate arrived for an interview with Climate Desk and The Weather Channel at the edge of a serene section of the St. Joseph River, the changing climate was on his mind. In February 2018, the slice of land that he stood on had been completely submerged from a record mix of rain and snow; the river rose by more than 12 feet, flooding the homes that border it.

Last year’s storm surge was certainly unlike anything South Bend’s residents remember—floods of that magnitude have a one-in-500 chance of occurring in a year. But South Bend has seen two of these events—one of them a 1,000-year flood—since 2016. Heavier downpours stress old city water infrastructure and sewage systems. That’s just one way in which climate change threatens the Midwest, according to the National Climate Assessment.

It was South Bend’s recent floods that inspired Buttigieg’s climate plan. “One thing we’ve learned from recent disasters—including the place we’re sitting right now—is that there is a complex overlapping bureaucracy when it comes to getting disaster relief,” he said. “The last thing you want somebody to have to do when they’ve been put out of their homes by a disaster is have to navigate all these different agencies to get help.”

Buttigieg says he has a plan to fix that in his first 100 days in office by setting up a disaster commission that coordinates local and federal response to extreme weather events. And his climate strategy emphasizes collaboration between Washington and individual communities. The first of his climate plans, an 18-page, $2 trillion plan that endorses the Green New Deal, proposes an AmeriCorps-style volunteer Climate Corps, federally issued World-War-II-style bonds for climate change and renewable energy projects, and regional “resilience hubs” that would work together with a new clean energy bank to loan funds for new technology and infrastructure projects.

Buttigieg’s timelines and investments for hitting zero pollution in the major sectors are not quite as aggressive as his competitors’. He aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, with goals along the way to double clean electricity by 2025 and clean up new cars by 2035, followed by trucks the following five years. By comparison, Bernie Sanders, who described his climate plan in an exclusive interview for the Climate Desk and Weather Channel series, has the same 2050 goal, but claims he can clean up transportation—currently the biggest source of pollution—by 2030.

Buttigieg also embraces two policies that have lost some popularity among the environmental left (and Sanders): He supports carbon capture and storage, and he plans to slap the fossil-fuel industry with a carbon tax, repaid as a dividend for taxpayers.

“For me the idea [of a carbon tax] is about making sure our prices more accurately reflect the true cost, including the cost to our own future, of things like fossil fuels,” he told CityLab’s Sarah Holder. “The beauty of the carbon tax and dividend is it does a lot of that work in terms of realigning the signals in our economy.”

Buttigieg will take the stage at MSNBC and Georgetown University’s climate town hall on Friday, while youth plan to hold school strikes around the country that day calling for swift action on the climate crisis. As the youngest candidate in the race, he’ll know in his lifetime whether the United States heeds their demands.

“Thirty years from now, this can be the dominant fact of American life,” he said. At that time, when Buttigieg will be in his 60s, some communities could already be unlivable. For evidence, he pointed to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which faces extreme heat and flooding.

Climate change “could be holding back opportunities for a new generation, transforming and destroying our economy. The way I would prefer to envision climate change is as a major national challenge that we rose to as a national project, led the world in doing it, and stood taller because we did it.”

1 day 6 hours ago
© Charles Hosea © Charles Hosea
  • Architects: Threefold Architects
  • Location: Greater London, United Kingdom
  • Category: Houses
  • Architect In Charge: Matt Driscoll, Jack Hosea, Renee Searle
  • Area: 4150.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Charles Hosea

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