Katrina’s New Urbanism

lemonadekatrina.gifIn the immediate aftermath of Katrina, we as a nation watched as one of our nation’s beloved cultural capitals suffered immensely. As a former resident of the area, I was left with a sense of loss and simmering anger. The situation called for compassion, a quick response, and heroism. What transpired could be best described as apathetic, shockingly slow, and utterly regretable.

Residents of the area will have to deal with the aftermath for years to come. Indeed, many cities and towns along the Gulf Coast are struggling with how to pick up the pieces and begin the long rebuilding process. The fact that many towns were literally washed away means that planners must essentially start from scratch. This is why many so-called New Urbanists have rushed to the delta to attempt to put in place a long-term planning process by which towns and cities in the region can bring back a sense of community and foster sustainable local economies.

The principles of New Urbanism are catching on in a region that has recently been dominated by strip malls and casinos. The creation of walkable neighborhoods and low-impact transportation methods can significantly reduce local pollution and greenhouse gases. Critics typically deride New Urbanism as a ‘Disneyesque’ pining for yesteryear, which may at times be a fair visual assessment. However, the New Urbanism movement, headed by the Congress for New Urbanism, can make serious arguments for its adoption on climate change merits alone.

The jury will remain out on whether New Urbanism creates the hope and stability in an area that so desperately needs it. However, city planners and active citizens across the nation should take note and help to generate positive discussions about how to create vibrant, low-impact communities. And we should all lend a hand or a kind thought to those affected by Katrina.

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  1. jerry - September 22, 2006

    The idea of “new Urbanism” is an acient idea. Its about commonsense and good design. Government (local and national) have designed cities and especially suburbs poorly from the get-go. eg. When i bike to the local Supermarket, it can be downright dangerous avoiding cell phone talking SUV drivers (no bike lanes or shoulders in the Northeast. When i do get to the market–they don’t even provide a bike rack to lock up. My point is we are way out numbered by folks that have no sensibility of the footprint they leave on this earth.
    I have doubts about it. I can see it turning in yuppie ghettos and elitist communities. Getting suburban Americans to get out of thier monster SUVs and walk or bike to the grocery store is not going to happen, most are too lazy.

  2. pradwastes - September 29, 2006

    I used to ride my bycicle nearly everywher but the increased traffic has made this downright dangerous. Towns need to make it easy to ride a bike without risking your life.
    Emloyers need to vary their hours from 9 to 5 so everyone is not going to or from work at the same time. Los Angeles encoraged employers do just this when hosting the Olympics in 1984. It was possible too drive almost anywhere at any time without encounting traffic for two wonderful weeks.