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Thread: Interesting NYT Article on Suburbs vs. City Living

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Interesting NYT Article on Suburbs vs. City Living

    A freind of mine showed me this article today. It is a first person point of view from several families that moved out from NYC to the NJ/NY suburbs hoping to "find" that suburban life but continue to be city people.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/08/realestate/08cov.html

    A couple of interesting quotes -

    "I can't wait 15 minutes in a bagel store to get two bagels," he said. "I can't have people looking at me like I'm crazy when I walk in and put a quarter on the table to get my paper and walk out. I go home and there's, like, people doing their lawn every five minutes. They seem like normal people but they spend, like, hours working on their lawn."

    "Mr. McCaul suffered through the suburban version of the Freshman 15, putting 10 to 15 pounds on his normally thin frame, which he attributed to his mostly nonpedestrian lifestyle."

    "The suburbs have some way of sucking the city out of you."

    "But they failed to integrate into the community - in large part because they couldn't find it."

    "We lived in a cul-de-sac and it was lovely but if we biked off the cul-de-sac, we were on these beautiful country roads that were curved so that bike riding on them wasn't so safe. We realized we were far safer going to Central Park, really playing with the kids and having our picnic, especially in the summertime."
    @GigCityPlanner

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    That's nice, but the author of the article could have just as easily found new suburbanites, recently from NYC who love thier new homes in the suburbs. Right?

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    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    That's nice, but the author of the article could have just as easily found new suburbanites, recently from NYC who love thier new homes in the suburbs. Right?
    I agree completely, however, I did find some of the things the residents said very interesting. They backed up what has been said about suburbs before but just another concrete example of it.
    @GigCityPlanner

  4. #4
    It's a good article in that it breaks the myth that the suburbs are better for children.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    It's a good article in that it breaks the myth that the suburbs are better for children.
    Good eye. I think I might use this article in an upcoming term presentation re: children and the city.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    It's a good article in that it breaks the myth that the suburbs are better for children.
    I think that's probably why 90% of people that 'move out' do so. What is it with English-speaking people and owning a small piece of grass? It's liek a sickness of the soul....Here in london people mortgage themselves to the hilt, commute for upward of 1.5 hrs so that they can own a carpet-sized stretch of turf.....Then they go off to the nearest common/park beuase it's a) ncier and b) big enough to enjoy. Msot back yeards get very limited use. Growing up in a urbanistically civilized country (Italy). I favor apartments plus parks.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    It's a good article in that it breaks the myth that the suburbs are better for children.
    What I gleaned from the article was limited to the adult perspective on the suburbs and city, children's opinions did not seem to play a major role.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Suburbs are good for kids??? Heck I'd never trade growing up in the city for that! Only thing that suburban homes have that city ones don't are a family room and an attached garage.

    City kids have access to more educational stuff like museums, nicer and larger parks, bus systems to get them around without their parents, and can just run outside to see who is out and wanting to do something - no need for 'play dates'.

    Most importantly city kids are more exposed to folks who are not like themselves. I know I appreciated what I had (even though we were by no means rich). Dad had a 5 minute commute home, and mom was able to stay at home to watch the kids. City kids are more exposed to the extremes in society. City kids learn to be wise when it comes to drugs, crime, and poverty; as they most likely have some pretty good examples where such things have really ended up wrecking someone.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I too thought it was a great article. Working and living in a suburban based city, I see a serious disconnect with many things that kids would do on a regular occasion. We have all these great bike paths and sidewalks, but the density is not high enough to encourage their use on a regular occasion, and many people will often have to drive to them in order to use any of them.

    That is one of the reasons that I know that I want to buy a house close to downtown Kalamazoo when the time comes. Something about being able to walk to the restaurants, bars, theaters, parks, and shopping areas provides a significant draw in my eyes. Additionally, the potential for interaction in many of these places is a major benefit!
    "The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism." - George Washington

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    I read the article yesterday (there was a link via Planetizen) and I have to say, I was rather disgusted.

    "I'm never leaving the City again!!!" Give me a break! Obviously, the suburbs are not for everyone, but I think the article says more about affluent (i.e., spoiled) NYC residents who don't understand that the rest of the world is not like them. Take a little initiative, for pete's sake! Maybe you can leave your 6,000 square foot house and introduce yourself to your neighbors... get involved in your community... etc.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess
    I read the article yesterday (there was a link via Planetizen) and I have to say, I was rather disgusted.

    "I'm never leaving the City again!!!" Give me a break! Obviously, the suburbs are not for everyone, but I think the article says more about affluent (i.e., spoiled) NYC residents who don't understand that the rest of the world is not like them. Take a little initiative, for pete's sake! Maybe you can leave your 6,000 square foot house and introduce yourself to your neighbors... get involved in your community... etc.

    Though I agree the article did seem geared toward the affluent I have to disagree that you say the new suburbanites didn't make any effort. The article is largely about their experiences while trying to find that niche such as in the deli's, at the vacant parks, trying to arrange play dates etc. etc.
    @GigCityPlanner

  12. #12

    Glad to see it

    I loved this piece- reading it from our 500 sq. ft. apt. in the East Village in NYC. What I found appealing was that one of the women mentioned that she felt it was a "phase" of life- after you reach a certain age and get married that you are supposed to move to the suburbs- and that she clearly realized that it wasn't for her. This idea is so pervasive- and is part of the hyper-individualized and materialistic America- that as soon as you grow up and partner up you should isolate yourself and get as much land as you can afford.
    Some people will always like the suburbs- but the impression that the suburbs are for anyone who can afford it, or care about their kids is so wrong- and the more articles that talk about it- the better!

  13. #13
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Well, I currently live in a "suburb" and plan to buy here. Granted it is a streetcar suburb that was built out before 1930, has 2 rapid transit lines with direct access to downtown Chicago (which is 9 miles away), and gives one the ability to walk to most daily needs, and is quite mixed use, depending on one's location.

    If the subjects of the article dislike it, I can't blame them. If it was like most suburbs (developed primarly after 1960), then I can understand. More often than not, the place is probably quite horrid, imo.
    Last edited by mendelman; 11 Jan 2006 at 3:51 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Msot back yeards get very limited use. Growing up in a urbanistically civilized country (Italy). I favor apartments plus parks.
    Preach the truth, brother Luca. It's amazing how many backyards in my suburban town are basically bare dirt or neglected weeds-and this is after 30 years of "opportunity" to take advantage of the sacred single family home.

    Still, as a dog owner who lives in a townhouse, I have to admit that I would like having a back yard for the dogs.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    I have a problem reading the NYT in general (especially "lifestyle" stories) because of it's narrow-minded Manhattan-centered worldview. This article doesn't appear to be lacking in that.

    I think it is spot-on though about needlessly large houses, stores where it's odd to just buy a newspaper, lack of pedestrian amenities, and all that. I've been in suburbs before where I stop at the cheapest/fastest-looking place to buy food that's not total crap and they can't believe I want a table for one. Like the only reason to go to a place that's not MacDonalds is to socialize, not because you're hungry.

    I think the lack of play opportunities and all of that have more to do with the fact that they moved out into the plywood frontier rather than into a more established "suburb." I think that in even 1960s hellholes like Schaumburg they’d not have any trouble finding friends, especially if they got involved in school activities or a church rather than sitting around like all the other transplants and trying to figure out why they can't meet anyone.
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
    http://hafd.org/~jordanb/ Pretentious Weblog.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    I think that's probably why 90% of people that 'move out' do so. What is it with English-speaking people and owning a small piece of grass? It's liek a sickness of the soul....Here in london people mortgage themselves to the hilt, commute for upward of 1.5 hrs so that they can own a carpet-sized stretch of turf.....Then they go off to the nearest common/park beuase it's a) ncier and b) big enough to enjoy. Msot back yeards get very limited use. Growing up in a urbanistically civilized country (Italy). I favor apartments plus parks.
    West London has a great solution to this problem I feel. You have terrace houses with no garden but a larger private park shared by the whole block. As seen in the film 'Notting Hill'.

    I wonder if you've had any experience with those?
    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Well, I currently live in a "suburb" and plan to buy here. Granted it is a streetcar suburb that was built out before 1930, has 2 rapid transit lines with direct access to downtown Chicago (which is 9 miles away), and gives one the ability to walk to most daily needs, and is quite mixed use, depending on one's location.

    If the subjects of the article dislike it, I can't blame them. If it was like most suburbs (developed primarly after 1960), then I can understand. More often than not, the place is probably quite horrid, imo.
    Let's not get tripped up in the definition of a suburb. By your definition Harlem is a suburb. What they meant in this article was "The Suburbs", the environment created around total automobile access.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Detroit Planner
    Suburbs are good for kids??? Heck I'd never trade growing up in the city for that! Only thing that suburban homes have that city ones don't are a family room and an attached garage.
    Depends on what type of city you are referring to...Manhattan, downtown Boston, Detroit or Raleigh? All are vastly different and all do not offer the same amenities to children. Suburbs in the northeast = cities in the south and west.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    West London has a great solution to this problem I feel. You have terrace houses with no garden but a larger private park shared by the whole block. As seen in the film 'Notting Hill'.
    .
    Yup, when we lived in Courtfield gardens we were keyholders to the private square. Really delightful, beautifully maintained garden about 60 yards on each side. We had garden parties in there (not too raucous, though) and would often 'picnic' if the weather was nice. Can't say enough good things about them. I'd much rather thave that than our small garden in Chiswick.

    For dog-owners it's a bit different, I allow.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  19. #19
    Cyburbian chukky's avatar
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    ^^ West London squares always interest me, though the benefits over a regualr park are a mystery to me.

    Who actually owns/maintains them?

    Is it some kind of homeowners equivlant? Or public funding?

  20. #20
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chukky
    ^^ West London squares always interest me, though the benefits over a regualr park are a mystery to me.

    Who actually owns/maintains them?

    Is it some kind of homeowners equivlant? Or public funding?
    Parts of Boston's South End are modeled after these London private squares. See image of Union Park below:

    Click image for larger version

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  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    One of my classmates in school moved out to what I call the suburbs in Valdivia, they're not that far from downtown (around 5 km), but when you're there you feel you're nowhere near a city. Her house was way bigger than the one they had, it was in one of the first gated communities in that area. They moved out after a year or so, mainly because they practically lived in their cars and there was the small inconvenience of having a septic tank instead of regular sewage pipes. Of course there was nothing else than residential uses and one of the roads to get there was made of gravel, so add that to the inconvenience. The view of the city was nice... but I preffer being in the city and being able to walk to go buy something to a nearby shop or walk to downtown like I can do from my house here. Sadly in that area the gated communities are flourishing. and one of the latest was clever enough to add a small shop, yet for anything else all you have is the car.

    In Santiago it's the same but way more extensive. Gated communities everywhere...and no sense of community... they drive in park the car and shut themselves in their houses.

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally posted by SkeLeton

    In Santiago it's the same but way more extensive. Gated communities everywhere...and no sense of community... they drive in park the car and shut themselves in their houses.
    The Chicago School Economists taught Chile well. Chile the Neoliberal Paradise.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess
    I read the article yesterday (there was a link via Planetizen) and I have to say, I was rather disgusted.

    "I'm never leaving the City again!!!" Give me a break! Obviously, the suburbs are not for everyone, but I think the article says more about affluent (i.e., spoiled) NYC residents who don't understand that the rest of the world is not like them. Take a little initiative, for pete's sake! Maybe you can leave your 6,000 square foot house and introduce yourself to your neighbors... get involved in your community... etc.
    You are exactly right. I work in the real estate industry and work in Manhattan, and my colleagues and I read the New York Times real estate articles each Sunday.

    This article generated more discussion Monday morning than any other article ever. The opinions were unanimous - the people profiled were the vilest, most spoiled, most selfish form of Manhattan snobs out there. Naturally, the NYT had no trouble selecting them.

    The article gave an amazingly biased account of the facts. If the New York City suburbs are so dreadful, why are they home to 10 million people, including me? Maybe NYT should have asked 1 of these 10 million people.

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    You are exactly right. I work in the real estate industry and work in Manhattan, and my colleagues and I read the New York Times real estate articles each Sunday.

    This article generated more discussion Monday morning than any other article ever. The opinions were unanimous - the people profiled were the vilest, most spoiled, most selfish form of Manhattan snobs out there. Naturally, the NYT had no trouble selecting them.

    The article gave an amazingly biased account of the facts. If the New York City suburbs are so dreadful, why are they home to 10 million people, including me? Maybe NYT should have asked 1 of these 10 million people.
    While absolutely true, I would maybe argue that the suburban upper middle class can be even more vile, spoiled, and selfish. At least I doubt Manhattanites would be so crass as to say out loud in a public hearing "I live in a $600,000 house. I(don't want my children to play with children from homes worth only $400,000. At least Manhattanites may have something to be snobby about. I'm not sure a beige stucco garage with a hidden attached living module on a street with same gives you the same bragging rights. (Ducks and runs for cover )

  25. #25
    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    The Chicago School Economists taught Chile well. Chile the Neoliberal Paradise.
    I think it has more to do with the long-running tradition of economic (proxy for racial) segregation in South America than the short-lived reign of the Chicago boys.
    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    This article generated more discussion Monday morning than any other article ever. The opinions were unanimous - the people profiled were the vilest, most spoiled, most selfish form of Manhattan snobs out there. Naturally, the NYT had no trouble selecting them.

    The article gave an amazingly biased account of the facts. If the New York City suburbs are so dreadful, why are they home to 10 million people, including me? Maybe NYT should have asked 1 of these 10 million people.
    Maybe the NYC suburbs are home to 10 million people who can't afford a comfortable lifestyle in NYC, and are therefore jealous of the Manhattan snobs who can make this choice. In which case asking them to make an unbiased comparison of the city versus the suburbs is pointless since they couldn't afford the city even if they wanted to, thus they are more prone to rationalize their "choice" of the suburbs.

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