‘Instagrammed to Death’ or a Return to Pre-Pandemic Normal?

Familiar controversies might seem reassuring in 2022.

2 minute read

August 21, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Uber Dumbo

The the far western stretch of Washington Street in Dumbo, along the Brooklyn waterfront, where the arch of the Manhattan Bridge frames the Empire State Building in the distance. | BravoKiloVideo / Shutterstock

Instagram has been making appearances in the Planetizen news feed since 2013, when an article originally published by UrbDeZine suggested that Instagram could be a valuable tool for planners.

The latest entry in the long history of think pieces examining the effect of Instagram on cities is by Ginia Bellafante, writing for the New York Times to ask, “Can a Neighborhood Be Instagrammed to Death?”

The article centers the experience of the far western stretch of Washington Street in Dumbo, along the Brooklyn waterfront, “where the arch of the Manhattan Bridge framing the Empire State Building in the distance dominates the view.” Washington Street has bee selfie central, according to Bellafante, as tourism has picked back up in New York City since the pandemic doldrums of 2020.

Locals are upset enough about the disruption caused by selfie-taking tourists that they have convened public meetings.

“The problem wasn’t simply the resurgent flood of humanity but also in part the economy that had evolved around it — the parade of food trucks, too many of which, neighbors maintained, were parked illegally and dumped trash with abandon,” writes Bellafante. “Navigation was already compromised by a renovation of the sewer system that had torn up various roadways; at the same time the city’s Department of Transportation had closed off a section of Washington Street adjacent to the popular tourist corridor to traffic, as part of the open streets program.”

According to Bellafante, the drama points to “a long-term failure of city planning” to engage with the formerly industrial neighborhood. The controversies are familiar, according to the article, even in the new world created by the pandemic: “a narrative of tensions among impassioned competing interests that all feel entitled to lay their personal claims to public space.” Bellefante suggests that the familiarity of the conflict is a "deeply reassuring" return to normal.

Friday, August 5, 2022 in The New York Times

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

Close-up of row of slot machines in dark casino.

New York Casinos Gain Zoning Change Approval

The new process will let casino projects avoid undergoing a separate land use review in certain circumstances.

40 minutes ago - The Real Deal

High view of woman walking in parking lot with red and white cars visible at left.

Non-Roadway Traffic Deaths On the Rise

A growing number of traffic deaths occur in driveways, parking lots, and other non-roadway spaces.

1 hour ago - Streetsblog USA

Purple jacaranda trees in bloom in Los Angeles with tall white Art Deco buildings in background.

LA County Releases Draft Community Forest Management Plan

LA County's Chief Sustainability Office just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first Community Forest Management Plan for the county.

April 21 - Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.