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The Cities This Week: Edition 41




An artist's impression of the potential Modderfontein transformation

An artist’s impression of the potential Modderfontein transformation

TACLOBAN

“The distance from the airport to the centre of town is just seven miles by road, but the journey can easily take six hours. To get to Tacloban, the small city in Leyte province in the Philippines that was flattened on Friday by typhoon Haiyan, you have to manoeuvre through piled up bodies, uprooted trees, jagged pieces of debris and survivors staggering around searching for food, water and supplies. The coastal city of 222,000 inhabitants bore the brunt of the 195mph winds of the strongest storm ever recorded, tearing off roofs and destroying evacuation centres. Storm surges six metres (20ft) in height turned roads into rivers of sewage and seawater, landing whole ships on top of houses, and obliterating bridges and roads. At least 10,000 people are thought to have died so far in Leyte province alone, with the toll expected to rise. Without clean water, food or medicine, Tacloban survivors have begun raiding houses, shops and malls to find supplies, with video footage showing residents scrambling out of a mall with electronic goods that they would likely barter later for food.” – The Guardian

JOHANNESBURG

Explosives and chemicals firm AECI had given preference to Chinese land developers in the sale of a 1 600 hectare site as they could buy a larger portion of its Modderfontein property with more than R1 billion up front, chief financial officer Mark Kathan said yesterday. Kathan said that local buyers “never made firm offers” and only expressed interest to buy small pieces of the 1 600ha of undeveloped land which is managed by AECI’s Heartland subsidiary. Hong Kong Stock Exchange-listed Shanghai Zendai Property will develop the mixed-use site over a period of 10 years and has expressed an interest in collaborating with local developers on projects. Shanghai Zendai planned to transform the Modderfontein property, in eastern Johannesburg, into a “New York of Africa” with investments of R80bn over the next 15 years, chairman Dai Zhikang said. The company will build a financial hub, 35 000 houses, an educational centre and a sport stadium. The site was home to an explosives factory that opened in 1896 to support the gold mining industry. It included a wetlands area that would be protected, and could be the equivalent of Central Park in New York, Dai said. “It will become the future capital of the whole of Africa,” Dai said. “This will be on par with cities like New York in America or Hong Kong in the Far East.””- IOL

NEW YORK CITY

Democratic New York is back — though really, it was here all along. Bill de Blasio trounced Joe Lhota on Tuesday to return City Hall to Democratic hands for the first time since David Dinkins was ousted in 1993, riding the coalition of traditional liberals, young progressives, politically active unions and minority voters that’s come to dominate city politics. His win brought what was under the surface to the top: Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg won the past five citywide elections on the strength of their mega-personalities and the particularities of the circumstances, not because New York was a secret bastion of Republican politics.  “The people of this city have chosen a progressive path, and we set forth on it together, as one city,” de Blasio said, first in English, then in Spanish, from a podium topped by a “PROGRESS” sign, looking out at a throbbing crowd that packed the streets waiting to get into the Park Slope Armory YMCA. De Blasio won his race by a landslide — 45 percentage points, according to results available as he declared victory — and he is joined by other city candidates like Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer and Public Advocate-elect Tish James, who embrace ideas that would be called class warfare anywhere else in the country. They want to drive up union membership, raise taxes and regulate Big Business.”- Politico

BRISTOL

The government has given its approval to the planned “rapid transit” bus route through Bristol. The Secretary of State for Transport rubber stamped a transport and works order for the Ashton Vale to Temple Meads metrobus. The West of England Joint Transport Executive Committee, made up of local authority partners, has been developing the scheme since 2006. It is part of a wider plan to improve public transport across the west. A spokesman for the committee said: “This is a hugely significant milestone for metrobus and a compelling endorsement of the project.” Earlier in the year, Bristol mayor George Ferguson amended the route so that the rapid transit buses no longer run along the Harbourside but along Cumberland Road instead. He said he did not want to see buses “clogging up” the bridge or compromising the harbourside area “ambience”. This change in the plan will still need planning permission if the £50m project is to be delivered by 2016.”- BBC News

TORONTO

A new video has surfaced showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford threatening to “murder” someone and “poke his eyes out” in a rambling rage, deepening concerns among both critics and allies that he is no longer fit to lead Canada’s largest city. Moments after the video was posted online, the mayor told reporters that he was “extremely, extremely inebriated” in it and “embarrassed” by it. The context of the video is unknown, and it’s unclear who the target of Ford’s wrath is. The video appeared at length on the Toronto Star newspaper’s website. City councillors moved ahead in efforts to force Ford out of office, although there is no clear legal path for doing so. Ford’s mother defended him later Thursday, saying she has advised him to work on his “huge weight problem,” get a driver, put an alcohol detector in his car and watch the company he keeps. But she insisted that her son, who has acknowledged a drinking problem, did not need to enter rehab. The controversy surrounding Ford escalated last week when police announced they had obtained a different, long-sought video that shows Ford smoking a crack pipe. After months of evading the question, Ford admitted Tuesday to smoking crack in a “drunken stupor” about a year ago. Despite immense pressure, the mayor has refused to resign or take a leave of absence.” – Al Jazeera

LONDON

London is due to receive new segregated cycle routes, including a ‘substantial upgrade’ to Cycle Superhighway 2 (CS2) with ‘pioneering’ separate cyclist traffic lights, it was announced today [Wednesday]. The announcement comes at the launch of London’s first fully segregated Cycle Superhighway, the CS2 extension from Bow to Stratford, and sadly after a man in his 60s was killed after a collision with an HGV on CS2 yesterday afternoon. CS2, which was condemned by a coroner for lulling cyclists into a false sense of security, will be segregated along Whitechapel High Street, with full or semi-segregation on the rest of the route, along with a new ‘substantially segregated’ new North-South route. Meanwhile the Bow to Stratford CS2 extension opened today, a two mile, physically-separated lane with ‘floating’ bus stops. The Mayor, Boris Johnson, said: “This Barclays Cycle Superhighway is the first physical fruit of my promise to improve the experience of cycling in London. A stone’s throw from the Olympic velodrome where Britain’s cycling team topped the world, we humbler London cyclists now have a world-standard cycle route of our own.”” – Cycling Weekly

LAGOS

A four story building collapsed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos on Monday, killing at least four construction workers, the Red Cross said, and leaving around 50 workers trapped inside the rubble, according to witnesses. The incident happened on a construction site in a street on the prestigious Victoria Island, in a lagoon set back from the Atlantic, home to some of Africa’s most expensive real estate. “We heard a sound from the third floor of the building and we ran for our dear lives. People are trapped there and there are some brought out injured and some dead,” worker Mohammed Kazeem told Reuters TV, saying that more than 50 of his colleagues were inside the building when it went down. Red Cross official Segun Akande said four bodies had been pulled from the wreckage so far and seven people had been rescued, three of whom were critically injured.” – Reuters

CAPE TOWN

The City of Cape Town has announced a project that will see residents of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain get free WiFi for six months. The pilot project forms part of the city’s broadband network project. Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille launched phase one of the city’s broadband network project on Thursday. It involves faster telecommunication services to 25 clinics in the city. De Lille says R51 million was spent on the first phase and an additional R220million will be spent over the next three years. The mayor also announced that Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain residents will have access to free WiFi for six months as from December. She says depending on the success of the project, the service will go out to tender and will hopefully provide reasonably priced WiFi to more disadvantaged areas.” – EWN

MONROVIA

A ban on the main mode of transport in Liberia’s capital city has forced many commuters to walk to work. Authorities have banned motorcycle taxis in Monrovia, after police accused drivers of reckless driving. The ban was announced on state radio Tuesday evening and Wednesay morning. Drivers caught in the city centre and main roads will have their bikes confiscated and be fined $20. Bikers were stopped from operating on all streets after 22:00 GMT early this year. The clampdown on motorbikes is controversial in Monrovia. Like in many other African cities, bikes are the main mode of transport, and the new laws are forcing commuters to walk to work.  “[One] resident suggested the government should set up alternative routes for commercial motorcyclists – instead of instituting ‘such a draconian regulation,'” BBC reported.  “We are paying taxes [to government] and right now our living condition is at standstill,” one of the motorcyclists, Daniel Howard, told BBC.” – UrbanAfrica.net

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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