Boston LISC Staff blog

Boston LISC Blog: New York Times Piece on the Manhattan Street Grid as Triumph of Urban Vision 200 Years Ago

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By Bob Van Meter

Yesterday's New York Times has a wonderful front page article by Michael Kimmelman, “The Grid at 200: Lines That Shaped Manhattan" celebrating a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York' "The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan. 1811-2011". 


Los Angeles Architect Michael Maltzan Speaks in Cambridge

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On Wednesday September 21st, Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan, was the keynote speaker for the 2011 Affordable Housing Design Leadership Institute. The institute, sponsored by Enterprise National Design Initiative, was held this week at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. It brings together community developers and design professionals in an intense two day charrette to explore new ideas in design for affordable housing and stimulate creative thinking by community based developers. The institute's founding sponsor is The McKnight Foundation and the Boston Foundaiton and Kendeda Fund were the lead sponsors of this year's institue in Boston. The Mel King Institute provided support as well.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino welcomed the audience and spoke about the fact that good design is important in affordable housing, specifically mentioning the work of Codman Square NDC and also the Orchard Gardens Hope VI redevelopment as examples in Boston.
Maltzan's presentation focused on his work in the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles with the Skid Row Housing Trust. He has designed three housing developments for the organization, two of which have been completed and a third project will start construction very soon. Maltzan talked about how the design of these buildings can function almost as a therapeutic element for the residents. Most of the residents have been homeless and as he described it, have had to develop very thick shells which make it hard for them to interact socially. The buildings try to create safe public space that makes that social interaction possible in a way that is comfortable for residents. Maltzan also talked about how building in a marginal neighborhood like Skid Row gave the developer and the architect perhaps more latitude to experiment with design than they might have had in a more settled community. One project was particularly interesting in how it sought to interact with the freeway that was close by and create a sense of movement in the building. The Carver apartment development was a circular but the circle's edges created a staccato appearance which made the building seem to move as one drove by it on the freeway. Design elements also gave the building common space almost a front porch on the freeway. There are images of these projects on the website of the Skid Row Housing Trust at and on Michael Maltzan's website at .
Three Boston area non profit housing and community development organizations are among the six community developers that were selected to participate in this year's institute. Those organizations are the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation. Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, and the Somerville Community Corporation.


A Community Development Reading List

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Recently a colleague asked me to put together a reading list of important books on community development that I could recommend to her to deepen her background in the field and I put together the list below and thought it might be of interest to others so I’m sharing it here on our staff blog.
  1. Jane Jacobs- The Death and Life of American Cities; classic and still valuable text on what makes cities work and a critique of traditional “urban renewal” ideas.
  1. Nicholas Lemann The Promised Land – Within a larger book on the history of African American migration to the North in the 20th century, this book contains a history of antipoverty policy in the 1950 and 1960s that is the best historical descriptions of the origins of the community development corporation that I have read.
  1. Alexander Von Hoffman Block by Block: The Rebirth of America’s Urban Neighborhoods A look at the community development movement in six American cities, including Boston by a sympathetic urban historian.
  1. Paul Grogan and Tony Proscio Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for America’s Urban Revival This 2001 book by the former director of LISC and current head of the The Boston Foundation, has an overarching theme of urban revival sparked by new immigrants, community development, and the innovation economy.
  1. Anthony Flint,   Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City   A recent book that details Jacobs career as an activist in NYC.
  1. Neil Pierce and Carol Steinbach Corrective Capitalism  An early 1990s monograph on the growth of the community development movement
  1. David Erickson, The Housing Policy Revolution This 2009 volume describes the growth of the affordable housing industry from the 1980s onward with significant attention to community development corporations and intermediaries.
  1. Paul Tough Whatever it Takes    A New York Times reporter’s book on Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone. This book is interesting to read as an alternative approach to comprehensive community development.
  1. Lisbeth Schorr  Common Purpose Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America. A 1998 examination of comprehensive approaches to community change which includes chapters on the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and Newark’s New Community Corporation. .
  1. Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone the Collapse and Revival of American Community, 2001 classic on the role of social connective tissue in people lives and how America has changes over the last 60 years with a discussion of the role of institutions and voluntary organizations. This is the book that made social capital a key concept in community development.
  1. Mark Warren Dry Bones Rattling Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy   Warren is a Putnam student that puts the social capital concept to work in looking at how the Industrial Areas Foundation did its community organizing work, particularly in San Antonio, Texas. The idea of “bridging social capital” between distinct ethnic groups is explicated in this book.
  1. Ron Suskind A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League. This book is not strictly speaking about community development but I found it moving in its description of the pressures that a talented young African American from the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington D.D. faces as he seeks to make a better life for himself.
  1. Aspen Institute Voices from the Field III, a 2010 survey of comprehensive community development efforts that is very rich in insights.

Whitey Goes Red and Green or Living a Low Carbon Footprint Life in a Rent Controlled Apartment

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One of the amusing aspects of the capture of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger has been detailed description of his life with his companion Catherine Greig that have appeared in the Boston Globe.   They lived in a rent controlled apartment in what has sometimes been called the  people's republic of Santa Monica (home of Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda when they were a couple and Tom represented Santa Monica in the state legislature).  Too bad Whitey's brother William Bulger, then President of the State Senate, could not have helped  protect rent control in Massachusetts back in 1994 then maybe Whitey would have holed up in Cambridge instead of Santa Monica. 
Not only did Whitey and Catherine Greig take advantage of Santa Monica's rent control laws to conserve their cash over their years in Santa Monica but apparently they lived a remarkably low carbon footprint life.  Their apartment was 800 square feet and they had no car.  Catherine walked to a grocery store eight blocks away to buy their groceries. Whitey's main occupation was to walk on the beach and occasionally feed the birds.  Who knew that our next poster children for green living would be a mobster on the run with his "moll".

Urban Edge and Boston Community Developers Celebrates Two Leaders

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Last Thursday May 12th Urban Edge Housing Corporation Roasted Mossik Hacobian and toasted Chrystal Kornegay at a packed event held at the Back Bay Events Center in Boston.  Mossik Habcobian stepped down on December 31st 2011 after working at Urban Edge for thirty four years including twenty seven as executive director of the organizaiton.  Chrystal has been in a leadership role at Urban Edge for the last two and half years and now

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