The Cities This Week: Edition 57

Source: Rob Bennett/Office of Mayor of New York/Getty Images

Source: Rob Bennett/Office of Mayor of New York/Getty Images


Emergency workers on Saturday sifted through debris Saturday from the site of a deadly explosion at two New York City apartment buildings, as they worked to reach deeper into the basement levels to clear the way for investigators to search for clues that might reveal what caused the blast. Fire commissioner Salvatore Cassano said investigation of the piping and the meters in front of the basement will likely start on Sunday and that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) should be able to start pressure-testing the pipes. Arson detectives and fire marshals have been waiting to enter the basements to examine meters, check pipes and inspect any possible ignition sources, such as light switches, that might have caused the blast.” – The Guardian


Thousands of striking public sector workers marched through Athens to protest against planned job cuts demanded by foreign lenders as unemployment in the country stays near record highs. Teachers, municipal workers and pensioners yesterday joined the 24-hour walkout by the country’s biggest public sector union ADEDY, which shut schools and left hospitals staffed by emergency workers while parliamentarians debated a bill on public sector reforms. “They won’t stop unless we stop them,” ADEDY said in a statement attacking the reforms as “an assault on workers’ rights”. Raising mops and brooms in the air, dozens of cleaning ladies protested outside parliament, the focal point of anti-austerity protests, and high school teachers chained themselves to the metal barriers barricading the assembly.” – The Scotsman


Thousands have marched through Melbourne’s CBD to protest against the Abbott Government and its policies, bringing the city to a standstill. The mammoth crowd — reportedly numbering up to as many as 30,000 — gathered at the State Library of Victoria for the Melbourne leg of the nationwide March in March rallies about midday on Sunday. The demonstrators went on to march down Swanston St and along Bourke St to reach Treasury Gardens, where a rally was held. Protesters chanted “shame Abbott shame” and brandished signs voicing their anger at the Government’s policies on issues such as climate change, the treatment of asylum seekers, same-sex marriage and the tax system.” – Herald Sun


“There are an astonishing 236 towers in the pipeline or under construction in London, according to a report released by London architecture think-tank the NLA. The towers, categorised as buildings comprising 20 or more storeys, represent arguably the most radical reshaping of the city’s skyline for more than 300 years. If the 1960s boom in towers was driven by a mix of social housing and commercial offices, the current high-rise explosion is being powered by private residential projects, with more than 80 per cent of these towers containing apartments. If any further evidence were needed, this confirms London real estate’s rise as an asset class – many of these properties are targeted at foreign investors off-plan before Londoners get a look in. This week even London mayor Boris Johnson, who had previously refused to speak out against the distorting effects of foreign money on London’s overheating housing market, was moved to comment that Londoners should be given at least an equal opportunity to buy.” – Financial Times


Half the diesel and petrol cars in greater Paris will be banned from the road tomorrow [17 March] in an attempt to reduce the health-threatening cloud of polluted air which has settled on northern France. From 5am only odd-numbered cars will be allowed to drive in the Ile-de-France, unless they have electric or hybrid motors. Taxis, buses, emergency vehicles and cars carrying three people or more are exempted. All trucks are banned. On Tuesday the ban will then apply to odd-numbered cars unless the weather changes. Foreign vehicles must obey the rules.” – The Independant


“Tens of thousands have joined a rally in the Russian capital Moscow to oppose its intervention in Ukraine, a day before Crimeans vote on whether to secede and join Russia. Holding Russian and Ukrainian flags, they shouted: “The occupation of Crimea is Russia’s disgrace.” A smaller pro-Moscow rally was being held elsewhere. Moscow supports the vote, which Ukraine and the West have dismissed as illegal. Kiev says Russian “provocateurs” are behind clashes in eastern Ukraine. Three people have died in pro- and anti-Moscow rallies in the cities of Donetsk and Kharkiv with sides blaming each other.” – BBC News


“The fight against crime in Diepsloot north of Johannesburg has received a boost with the launch of a personal safety alarm. The device called Memeza or Shout can be used to deter intruders from gaining unlawful entry into a potential victim’s house. Diepsloot has a serious crime problem. Last year October, two toddlers were raped and murdered and their bodies dumped in a communal toilet. Memeza is a compact, colorful personal alarm that makes this sound each time you pull a pin attached to a strap from this device.  About 2 000 of these devices were handed out to residents as a start. Honeydew area Police Cluster commander, Oswald Reddy, says the device will help mobilise the community.” – SABC News


“The City of Cape Town has, due to non-performance, cancelled the contract it had with Lumen Technologies CC for the implementation, operation and maintenance of the control centre and the related supply of hardware and software for the operation of the MyCiTi bus service. This contract includes the scheduling and monitoring of the MyCiTi bus operations, such as automatic monitoring of buses by GPS to record their adherence to scheduled times. The total contract value was R234 million over a seven-year period, including contingency allowances. A large portion of the deliverables have been installed and are functioning. However, final software validation and licence handover has not occurred, despite additional time being provided and assistance from the City to the contractor.  The City called up the contractor’s Performance Guarantee, but they were unable to pay this over to the City.” – City of Cape Town


“President Goodluck Jonathan, on Thursday stated that the Federal Government has approved the contract for the Lagos-Sokoto railway project to further enhance economic development in the country. President Jonathan, who disclosed this at the official commissioning of Procter and Gamble( P&G) plant at Agbara, Ogun State, on Thursday said that when completed the project would facilitate the free flow of business from the zone to other states of the federation. He said this had become necessary in order to move goods and services from Ogun and Lagos states to other parts of the country, noting that his government was ready to create enabling environment for business to thrive in the country.” – Daily Times


“George Osborne has announced the creation of what the government is describing as Britain’s first garden city for almost 100 years, by the Thames Estuary at Ebbsfleet. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday, the chancellor said that initially 15,000 homes would be built on the site, which has been chosen partly because a high-speed rail connection puts it within 19 minutes of central London. Osborne also said he would use his budget on Wednesday to extend one of the government’s two Help to Buy schemes. He will pledge £6bn to extend the equity loan scheme to 2020, funding the construction of a further 120,000 homes. The two initiatives would mean “more homes, more aspiration for families [and] more economic security and economic resilience”, Osborne said. Ebbsfleet has been identified as a site for new housing development for at least a decade, but progress has been slow and so far only around 150 homes have been built.” – The Guardian