Density, Zoning and Disease
Epidemics, individual health, energy, transportation, and economics all need to be considered in any urban plan. Cities cannot escape Pandora’s box of diseases ignoring any of the above. No municipal leader, urban planner, or institution can long ignore the factors that drive an epidemic and foster the appearance of diseases. Basic facts understood 80 years ago forgotten, e.g., Cornell University Public Health professor, Wilson Smiley, warned that overcrowded subway cars would increase the dangers of spreading influenza and pneumonia during a 1947 Board of Estimate transit hearing in New York City.(1)
1. Plotch, Philip Mark. Last Subway: The Long Wait for the Next Train in New York City. Three Hills. 1920, p 37
A Few Sobering Facts
Healthy neighborhoods and buildings may not be energy efficiency. Plenty of fresh air ventilation and sanitation in buildings and mass transit are as important as energy efficiency and maximizing capacity. The current guidelines for air circulation are designed to reduce energy consumption not keeping people healthy.
Energy efficient buildings are slowly killing people. At one time buildings we’re built with windows that openes. Today, the mantra of architects is build with windows that do not open. Past knowledge dismissed. City building and sanitary codes have forgotten the value of fresh air. It is the lack of quality and ability of those proposing solutions to think and spend the time to analyze, gather data and discuss the issues that has led cities to suffer from an epidemic sick buildings spread. This type of critical thinking can be taught, but few will master.
Education and enforcement of public hygiene laws and sanitation are all part of the urban equation that has to always be taught and reinforced continually – people forget. It is not tolerance to permit ethnic and cultural practices that foster disease is madness and is a service to others ethnicities and cultural groups no so inclined.
Creating neighborhoods that keep work, entertainment, business, medical services, and shopping all within a 30-minute walk and require minimum access to mass transit reduces the spread of disease.
Mass Transit and Urban Recovery
- Once an epidemic takes hold in a city, how the mayor and staff react and manage the crises determines if the effects of the pandemic permanently alter the city’s dynamics.
- After a successful bioterrorism attack, how cities interact with other cities will change in profound ways.
- Once bioterrorism is perceived by urban residents as a real and imminent threat, the cities not abandoned will be cities that have the abilities to marshal forces that positively reduce perceived adverse outcomes of such an attack.
Sloppy Science and Mediocre Leadership