Thursday, June 30, 2011

In praise of suburbs

Nicholas Lemann praises the suburbs and questions the trendy pro-city theories in the June 27 New Yorker.

I lived in the suburbs---Pelham, in Westchester County---for twenty-one years, after which my family moved to an apartment in New York City. We're all intermittently homesick, especially at this time of year, when suburbia feels like the land of fecundity, as green as a jungle, the streets and sidewalks jammed with children playing. Pelham is devoted to a (long) season of life, parenthood. Most people moved there because they couldn't afford to live decently in the city with children, and they claimed they stayed there out of necessity. As time passed, our collective secret became clear. It wasn't just good public schools and one bedroom per child that kept us in Pelham. We actually liked it---liked the houses, the slower pace, the regular unplanned access to each other. And, given the kids, we couldn't have done all the wondrous things you can only do in cities anyway.

The Chronicle confronted the issue recently in a story on "family flight" to the suburbs. Obviously the city isn't for everyone, especially families with young children:

Other cities with a higher percentage of children have larger land masses that include suburban-style communities sprawling outside the downtown core. San Francisco's unique---and tight---geography at the tip of a peninsula means it doesn't have that option. And while high-density housing may make sense for the city overall, it turns off most families.