What we're reading this week | The #FridayFive

Six epidemics from American history show how urban design affects our health
News@Northeastern, Emily Arntsen, Northeastern University, August 8
Cities that are organized on grids are more than just convenient. They’re good for your health too, according to Sara Jensen Carr, assistant professor of architecture. During the Industrial Revolution when cities became densely populated, people started to worry about crowded housing conditions for fear of catching the “bad air.” As a result, Carr says, toward the end of the 19th century, there was a huge push to design buildings and outdoor areas that brought in fresh air and sunlight. Around this time, the landscape architect and public health officer Frederick Law Olmsted started designing public parks, such as the Emerald Necklace in Boston and Central Park in New York City. “Even though he didn’t have a lot of scientific knowledge to back it up, he knew intrinsically that we needed space to breathe,” Carr says. [READ MORE]

Tired of waiting for national push, a buzzing hive of climate resilience innovators is at work in Boston
Boston Globe, Anthony Flint, August 8
The water is relentless, as anybody from Beachmont or Orient Heights can testify. During some storms it comes in from Belle Isle Marsh and washes across Bennington Street and finds its way to the Blue Line tracks. It courses into culverts so fast, plumes of water start shooting up out of stormwater drains, like menacing geysers. In the years ahead, climate change is expected to make everything much worse. The stretch of East Boston and Revere, dotted by marshland, inlets, and creeks, will get blasted with a projected 40 inches of sea level rise. [READ MORE]

Editorial: New deal with Olmsted Conservancy keeps parks in good hands
The Buffalo News, Editorial Board, August 7
Areas of scarcity are often described with a geographic metaphor: Food deserts, banking deserts, culture deserts. The City of Buffalo has sections that answer to each of those descriptions, but when it comes to parks and green space, we are rich in oases. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy manages some 850 acres of the city’s 1,900 acres of parkland, including the crown jewel: Delaware Park. A new 12-year agreement between the Conservancy and the city ensures many of our municipal havens of tranquility will remain under strong stewardship. It’s an important and consequential development. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is the first nonprofit in the United States to manage and operate an urban park system. Boston and Louisville have conservancies that raise funds for their parks, but they do not manage their properties. [READ MORE]

With nowhere to hide from rising seas, Boston prepares for a wetter future
ScienceNews, Mary Caperton Morton, August 6
Boston dodged a disaster in 2012. After Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey and New York, the superstorm hit Boston near low tide, causing minimal damage. If Sandy had arrived four hours earlier, many Bostonians would have been ankle to hip deep in seawater. Across the globe, sea levels are rising, delivering bigger storm surges and higher tides to coastal cities. In Boston, the most persistent reminder comes in the form of regular “nuisance” flooding — when seawater spills onto roads and sidewalks during high tides. Those nuisance events are harbingers of a wetter future, when extreme high tides are predicted to become a daily occurrence. [READ MORE]

Why parks matter
The Philadelphia Citizen, Paul Levy, August 4
Since 2005, the Center City District has renovated and now manages five downtown parks. In the same period, seven other parks opened within commercial areas in Center City, University City or along the riverfronts. Only one was fully funded and led by local government. Seven of 11 were planned and constructed by business improvement districts; three by nonprofit corporations; and one by a private developer. Local foundations contributed to most. Federal, state and local resources were secured for some. However, with full cooperation and support from three successive mayors, these projects originated and were implemented outside of local government. The emergence of so many new partners for parks and the type of places they have created, strongly suggest it’s time to think differently about civic spaces. [READ MORE]


The One Waterfront Team