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Lewyn Addresses America

A little politics, a little urbanism- I also blog 100 percent on urbanism at https://www.planetizen.com/user/63 and http://www.cnu.org/blog/194

When I visited Omaha, the neighborhood that reminded me most of Kansas City’s Brookside was Dundee (Warren Buffet’s neighborhood!)- a rich area with big 1920s houses, street grid, and sidewalks.  But even though Dundee’s residential areas are reasonably walkable, Brookside on balance is much nicer.

Here’s why: in Brookside, the main commercial streets (around 62rd and 63rd) are (a) pretty close to my building and (b) is pretty walkable- the main shopping street isn’t quite as wide or as fast as most Kansas City commercial streets.  In addition, they have utilitarian stuff like groceries. By contrast, in Dundee, most of the shopping (especially things that really matter like groceries and pharmacies, as opposed to restaurants) is on a speedway with huge parking lots.  That’s true even for neighborhoods closer in than Dundee.

So even though Kansas City is defective in some ways, I’m glad that it has kept some walkable neighborhoods and that I live in one of them.

NOTE: to see what I am talking about, go to Google Street View and look at 300 N. Saddle Creek in Omaha, then look at 317 W. 63rd Street in Kansas City.

Just visited Omaha; KC and Omaha are similar enough that I thought I’d compare them.

What I like about KC: 1) the most walkable areas are more walkable- even though there are a lot of stroads in Kansas City, there are a couple of exceptions to the dominance of high-speed, anti-pedestrian streets.  By contrast, almost every commercial street outside downtown (and many within downtown) in Omaha was pretty awful.

2) Generally more intown retail; I was surprised how few stores I felt like visiting, and in particular thought I would see more grocery stores.  KC is just a slightly bigger, more amenity-laden place.

What I like about Omaha: 1) Even though Jewish life is in the pretty suburban part of town, it is still in a somewhat transit-accessible part of town (unlike KC where Jews have moved to suburbs with 9-5 bus service).  There’s a kosher restaurant there, which is a nice touch (though not open for dinner).   The fact that the city has annexed more of its affluent suburbs is really a big deal, because municipal boundaries aren’t a barrier to transit.

2) generally felt safer, less ominous (since Omaha has less than half KC’s murder rate this is not surprising).  In any halfway urban part of KC you are always within a mile or so of rough areas.

3) Instinctively I like a city with civic spirit, as opposed to a city that is in a constant losing war with its suburbs.

Which city would I rather live in? Close call.  On balance I pick Omaha because of (1).  If I wasn’t Jewish (or was irreligious enough to drive or take a bus to shul)  I’d probably go the other way.

Because I traveled Sunday and Monday, I wasn’t really able to enter any “gratefulness challenge” posts.  I visited Omaha (photos here), and am quite grateful that I was able to get there (Day 24) and back (Day 25) without incident.  In particular I was really lucky last night.  My plan was to take a cab from the bus station (which is in a deserted industrial area).  As I was about to walk towards a cab I saw a city bus on a nearby street corner and grabbed it- talk about being in the right place at the right time!  The bus then took me to a safer area closer to home (from which I transferred to another bus taking my home, but that’s more boring).

Northeast Kansas City is kind of like the inner neighborhoods of South St. Louis: old and racially integrated, with recent immigrants as well as non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans.

Pendleton Heights here, Scarrit Renaissance (a bit richer, at least at its northern fringes) here, and some poorer areas here.

I am grateful that I got to do some interesting things Friday; I visited yet another Kansas City neighborhood (details to follow in another post).

For today, I’m grateful that I had a smoothly running Shabbat and was invited to a nice lunch.

Today is the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon- an attack that caused not only thousands of deaths on that day, but also hundreds of thousands of deaths (a few thousand American, mostly natives of nations invaded by the U.S.) in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed that attack, plus whoever dies as a result of the ISIS-related wars that grew out of the Iraq war.

There are many people who have dramatic stories about someone they knew who died or was horribly injured either on 9/11 or in those wars, or at least about how the traumas they suffered.  I am grateful that I am not one of them, nad that I really have nothing very interesting to say about the whole matter.

I’m grateful that I am part of group blogs organized by people who trust me enough to have me post my opinions (as long as they relate to land use etc. somehow) and that I remembered to actually post a few things yesterday.

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