The Foundations of New York // #1
The Politics of Progress in NYC
Monday, March 14, 2022: The more I talk about Maximum New York, the more I find likeminded individuals in the city who want it to be bigger, wealthier, and more inspiring than ever. They have a special combination of personal ambition, curiosity, and a desire to elevate NYC governance.
But the most common feature they lack is operational political knowledge, which locks them out of governance in almost every relevant way.
Americans typically don’t pay attention to any government except the one in DC, and even then their knowledge doesn’t extend beyond talking points from the blue or red team. The fundamental problems that New York City faces will not change until this status quo does—we need more minds turned toward City Hall and Albany, more minds available to work on city governance.
So I will simply train them!
This weekend I opened registrations for the first cohort of The Foundations of New York, a new six-week class to give New Yorkers the history, political theory, and political practice they need to conduct the politics of progress. If you have friends in the city, I’d be happy to have them in class.
Recent Maximum New York Essays:
#1 | Atlantis on the Hudson
New York City has a lot of curious problems. Despite being America’s preeminent city, possibly the world’s, it continues to lose the ability to course correct and do fundamental things. For example: it uses sidewalks as garbage bins, it can’t build subway lines (and hasn’t in about 80 years), and it can’t build housing.
In the face of these truly extraordinary circumstances, the vast majority of New Yorkers, especially those with intellect, money, and time to spare, do nothing. They don’t try to learn the source of the problems, and they assume they’d be unable to fix the source if they discovered it. They just vaguely blame city hall, take the punches on the chin, and move along. Why is that? I think it’s profoundly strange behavior… (continue reading >>)
#2 | The Adams Imperative
“The Science of Government it is my Duty to study…I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”
John Adams wrote these now-famous words to his wife Abigail during the American Revolution…This imperative asserts itself differently across time, both in the number of people it requires and what it requires of them. In Adams’ time, it was immediate, total, and unmistakable: it marched in red coats and occupied New York City…
But what about modern New Yorkers?…Does the Adams Imperative call them to turn toward their government at the expense of their own time and attention, if not also resources?
Yes, more than they imagine. (continue reading >>)
#3 | The Anti-Politics Meme
Many people’s ideas about politics are so inexact, nebulous, and terminally swamped with negative connotation that they are rendered useless at best if your standard of judgment is having a good, self-ruling citizenry.
They are under the unconscious control of a meme that prevents them from even understanding what “good politics” are. Their whole cognitive architecture doesn’t merely reject the idea of “good politics,” it treats the concept as a category error and a contradiction in terms. Why? Because “politics” isn’t a thing in its own right that can be many degrees of good or bad—it’s whatever is going wrong.
The anti-politics meme is one of the most stubborn, corrosive forces in our culture. It’s a parasite that the hosts don’t even know is there. And it contributes to the deterioration of society’s central coordinating mechanisms and the liquidation of its dearest social technologies.
But politics—the science of government and all that entails—can be beautiful. (continue reading >>)
#4 | Anchor Higher: 15 Million New Yorkers
If there were a Martin Luther of housing, and he were nailing some theses to every door in New York City (and Albany), I would recommend four:
~8.8 million people live in New York City, but it should be more like 15 million, at least. Sometime in the 2030s.
The city should be building hundreds of thousands of housing units a year.
We need new homes built with modern knowledge, modern efficiency, and well-considered beauty, and we shouldn’t idolize old buildings.
NYC residents should anchor on higher numbers, and know that current population and housing numbers are poor anchor points.
NYC Reads, Follows, and Bricolage
🐦 @jehiah on civic tech and current legislation related to transit (among other things). He also built Intro.nyc, a site that allows you to track legislation in City Council; you can also view the site’s repo on GitHub.
Subcounty housing unit counts are important for studying geo-historical patterns of (sub)urbanization, land-use change, and residential loss and gain. The most commonly used subcounty geographical unit for social research in the United States is the census tract. However, the changing geometries and historically incomplete coverage of tracts present significant obstacles for longitudinal analysis that existing datasets do not sufficiently address. Overcoming these barriers, we provide housing unit estimates in consistent 2010 tract boundaries for every census year from 1940 to 2010 plus 2019 for the entire continental US. Moreover, we develop an “urbanization year” indicator that denotes if and when tracts became “urbanized” during this timeframe. We produce these data by blending existing interpolation techniques with a novel procedure we call “maximum reabsorption.” Conducting out-of-sample validation, we find that our hybrid approach generally produces more reliable estimates than existing alternatives. The final dataset, Historical Housing Unit and Urbanization Database 2010 (HHUUD10), has myriad potential uses for research involving housing, population, and land-use change, as well as (sub)urbanization.