Reading ‘People Habitat’

Interesting experiment, blogging from a moving train enroute Lorton, Va, where we and our Honda Civic de-train and start the drive to Weehawken, NJ. There are no carbon-free ways to travel fast but this is somewhat lighter than two seats on a jet, lower on stress, and so far, very civilized. Dinner included — our seating at 7 — and the movie, Frozen, in the lounge at 9:15.

I’ve been reading F. Kaid Benfield’s People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities, on this trip. His collection of essays makes a very persuasive case for a new urbanism, in particular Chapter 18: Walk, Drink, Walk Back. It reminds me of how important a neighborhood hangout, the pub, tavern, or bar, can be in nurturing community coherence, resilience, and even much more.  After all, it was exactly this sort of gathering place in Philadelphia where our Founders met to launch a new nation.

We had such a pub, Ted and Jo’s on 11th and Garden in Hoboken in the 90s. A genial host in Gerry Farrelly, comfort food of high quality, always someone to talk with about what was going on in our town. It was our hub, our safety net in an — at the time — edgy, not quite gentrified neighborhood, our home away from home. It had what Kaid Benfield (quoting community development consultant, Michael Hickey) calls a high ‘lingering index’, a measure of good old hanging out ‘that’s really at the heart of place-making.’ I’ve been looking for that kind of spot ever since. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Why does it matter even more today? “The more complete our neighborhoods, the less have to travel to seek out goods, services, and amenities. The less we have to travel, the more we can reduce pollution from transportation.”

Well, the lounge car is but steps from my seat tonight. With a little bit of luck there might be a craft beer available and perhaps a conversation with an interesting fellow traveler.

Check out Kaid Benfield at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he writes a blog on place-making and related subjects. Have a look at the newer LEED – ND standards.  Tell me about your favorite watering hole.

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2 responses to “Reading ‘People Habitat’

  1. “Frozen” was fun to watch with my grandkids. I like the image of your writing on the train within steps of lounge and dining car. In our neighborhood, while not quite a watering hole, there is a very easy and friendly feeling at a farm to table restaurant, Coolinary. Small and cozy, the owner/chef and his wife, Tim and Jenny, are usually up for a chat. Sitting at the bar, one can watch the meals being prepared and catch a quip with one of the cooks. Often, one can have a casual conversatio with fellow barsitters. So, while not likely to see the same faces or neighbors, it is a place we stroll to from our home, enjoy good food and a sense of place, then stroll home again. Not bad for suburban South Florida.

  2. Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve added People Habitat to my Amazon wish list (but I buy my books from a local bookstore! I just keep track of them on Amazon). I’ll check out Benfield’s blog too.

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