Best of the Web, 2009

A look back at the year’s finest reports, interviews, slideshows and feature articles from

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Depending on your point of view, 2009 could be said to be the best of years or the worst of years to write about cities. The news was certainly grim: Cities struggled to balance their budgets, deal with foreclosed properties and provide jobs for their citizens. Still, 2009 was also a year when cities began to think seriously about sustainability, when young people took jobs at CDCs instead of investment banks and when cycling may have reached a tipping point as a practical, legitimate mode of commuting.

This was also a year of exciting additions to We introduced regular columns, as well as several city-specific home pages. As always, we focused on trying to find stories of best practices in urban areas around the country. We talked to experts, young activists and philanthropists; we walked the streets of Philadelphia and other American cities to find examples of progress and passion, and we planned and schemed for 2010, which holds great things for our magazine and our website (more on this soon!).

For now, here’s a roundup of reports, interviews, slideshows and features from 2009. A roundup of the year’s best commentary will come later this week. Happy Holidays!

A Newsweek article argued that demolition helps to manage dwindling populations in Rust Belt cities. Matt Stroud wondered: at what cost?

Former Next American City Urban Leaders fellow Ben Adler signed off before moving on to —but not without writing an ode to his street in Washington, D.C., where he’d spent four and a half years.

Earlier in the year, Adler wrote a dispatch from Berlin and Copenhagen, where residents’ and officials’ blase attitude toward petty crimes — the same crimes American proponents of the “Broken Windows” theory say must be fought in order to reduce violent crimes — seems to make both cities safer.

New Orleans correspondents Ariella Cohen and Brentin Mock reported from the Bayou on the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, covering both the local response to a new presidential administration as well as the persistent problems and hope-inducing successes the city has seen since.

NAC editorial assistant Akua Nyame-Mensah interviewed Maria Dziembowska, Events Director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, about the status of biking in the city and the various events hosted by the Coalition to raise awareness about the benefits of having a bicycle friendly Center City.

Later, Nyame-Mensah strolled the streets of Philadelphia on Park(ing) Day, when ordinary city dwellers, design firms, community organizations and others took over metered parking spaces and turned them into temporary public parks.

To take photos for our first audio slideshow, Urban Leaders Fellow Jori Lewis traveled to Dakar, Senegal, where she walked to streets to photograph the many renderings of poet, religious icon and scholar Cheikh Amadou Bamba.

Hamida Kinge interviewed Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier, who says vertical farms are agriculture’s only hope.

Rachel Somerstein took a look at how public-private partnerships helped guide the fates of Indianapolis and Detroit.

NAC Editor-in-Chief Diana Lind asked whether it’s time to redefine “blighted.”

And finally, Maggie Tishman took a close look at the poverty line, an official measurement that many think is antiquated—and maybe even dead wrong.

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Tags: philadelphiawashington dcbuilt environmentdetroitgovernancenew orleanspittsburghindianapolis

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