Tokyo, London and Moscow far surpass New York when it comes to efficient use of land and energy resources lution control, according to urbanologist Dan Dimancescu. These relative disadvantages promise to make revitalization of New York - and similar U.S. cities - more difficult unless Americans begin to bring their lifestyles into line with other peoples' around the world.
This was one of the most profound changes suggested during this three days of House hearings this week on a new national urban policy. The sessions, which were devoted to urban experiences abroad, produced proposals ranging from integration of suburbs into the city for tax and housing policy purposes to installation of small German-style toilets to economize on plumbing costs.
Urbanologists from, or familiar with, Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Canada testified before the House Banking subcommittee on the city. The subcommittee sought to learn how foreign cities continue both their economic vitality and neighborhood charm. However, witness soon made it clear that many European cities today are just now recognizing that they face the same problems of inner city unemployment and decay. As in America, this has been the result of spontaneous flight to the suburbs by city residents and the interest of governments in creating new towns.
The British government, for one, is expected to announce soon a cutback of funding for new towns in favor of increased aid to older cities.
Dimancesu, president of Cities Corp., a Cambridge, Mass., urban consulting firm, warned that the energy crisis means that America's love affair with the electric toothbrush, two cars per family, 70 degree-winters and summer climate control must one day give way to a far more efficient allocation of resources. In this context, managmeent of high density living becomes a factor to study, he said.
In one such density index based on resources use, boundaries, mixed character of communities and other criteria, Tokyo topped the list with 685 points. London rated a 630; Moscow, 535; and New York, 330. In a companion index based on economic vitality, social welfare, crime and pollution, Moscow rated 310; Tokyo, 300; London, 295; and New York, 210.
Comparing the New York metropolitan area, a tri-state region encompassing 20 million people, Dimancescu found that Tokyo, Moscow and London had far less vacant land or land consecrated to the automobile. In Los Angeles, for example, 75 per cent of the greater city is turned over to cars; in Tokyo, it is 35 per cent.
Whereas Toronto, Stockholm and Moscow have jealously guarded their city boundaries, nonexistant city limits in Denver have led to what Dimancescu called "leap-frogging real estate speculation (that has) absorbed vast open space acreages without forethought, leaving future Denverites with a blurred relationship between city, farm and mountains."
With regard to density, New York manages to pack as many as 500 to 600 people in per acre, whereas Tokyo - pictured in many American minds as a city of crammed subways - has a density of 100 persons an acre. London has 230. The solution for greater New York, therefore, says Dimancescu, is fewer new highrise building and fewer shopping centers with huge parking lots. Instead, the city needs lowrise buildings, packed together with shops to form old-fashioned neighborhoods, he maintained.
To accomplish something that is currently alien to the traditional American dream, he proposed more government involvement and reeducation of the public to the advantages of the cities.
Testimony during the hearings covered many forms of urban renewal and planning from Singapore to Moscow, but it was one of the "unplanned" communities that drew the rapt attention of the subcommittee.
Kai Lemberg, chief planner of Copenhagen, described the unplanned success of the "so-called Free Town of Chritiania," better known in U.S. parlance as a hippie community.
Despite official condemnation and threats, some 600 to 1500 young people (depending on the season) lodge in old military barracks in the capital. Many are social losers - addicts, pushers, criminals, runaways, activists, and welfare recipients - but the community works even though utility bills rarely get paid, the official told the subcommittee. It has gained the substantial support, according to Lemberg, of trade unions as well as intellectuals and liberals.
The Danish police found a lower crime rate in Christinia than in other inner-city areas of Copenhagen. Anyway, he said, "The Danish government saves money by not having out to put these people in jail or in hospitals."