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City Journal's 10 Blocks

City Journal's 10 Blocks, a weekly podcast hosted by editor Brian C. Anderson, features discussions on urban policy and culture with City Journal editors, contributors, and special guests. Forthcoming episodes will be devoted to topics such as: predictive policing, the Bronx renaissance, reform of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, homelessness in Portland, Oregon, and more. City Journal is a quarterly print and regular online magazine published by the Manhattan Institute.
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Urban policy and cultural commentary with City Journal editors, contributors, and special guests

May 23, 2018

Max Eden joins Seth Barron to discuss recent mass shootings in American high schools and how misguided approaches to school safety can play a role in some of these massacres.

In the aftermath of horrific shootings at high schools in Florida and Texas, the political debate has focused largely on the role of guns in American society. Mostly ignored is how school districts fail to take action on students with documented histories of threats, violence, or mental illness.

The school district in Broward County, Florida, for example, which includes Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, created the “Promise” program to counsel students who commit minor crimes, as an alternative to involving law enforcement. After repeated denials by school administrators, it was revealed that Nikolas Cruz, who shot and killed 17 people at the school, was previously assigned to the program, rather than being referred to authorities. But that’s just one example.

May 16, 2018

Howard Husock joins Seth Barron to discuss the Fair Housing Act, racial discrimination in residential neighborhoods, and efforts to reinvigorate the law today.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the landmark legislation signed by President Lyndon Johnson aimed to end housing discrimination and residential segregation in America.

The Kerner Commission in 1968 stated that America was split into “two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” In response to the report and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act. Half a century later, the nation is still debating whether the act’s promises were fulfilled.

May 9, 2018

Long-term, persistent joblessness is the great American domestic crisis of our generation. City Journal grappled with the problem in our 2017 special issue, “The Shape of Work to Come,” and our writers continue toexplore the topic.

Last week, City Journal convened a panel of experts to talk about the future of work. Audio from their discussion is featured in this episode of 10 Blocks.

The panel consisted of Ryan Avant, a senior editor and economics columnist at The EconomistEdward L. Glaeser, the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and contributing editor of City Journal; and Kay S. Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal. The discussion was moderated by Steve LeVine, the Future Editor of Axios and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

May 2, 2018

Rafael Mangual and Seth Barron discuss plans to close the jail complex on Rikers Island, home to the vast majority of New York City’s inmate population, including some of the city’s worst offenders.

Violence on Rikers has spiked in recent years, despite a marked decline in the city’s inmate population. Last year, approximately 9,000 people were held on the island on an average day. According to the city’s own reporting, a larger share of inmates in Rikers are now “more violent and difficult to manage.”

The city is committed to closing Rikers and moving all inmates to county-based jails. Both critics and supporters of the plan agree that facilities on the island are outdated and dangerous—for prisoners and guards alike.

Rafael Mangual is the deputy director for legal policy at the Manhattan Institute.

Apr 18, 2018

Nicole Gelinas and Brian Anderson discuss recent disaster-relief efforts in the United States, the federal government’s role in such assistance, and how national flood insurance and other recovery programs could be reformed.

Since 2005, Washington has spent nearly $300 billion on disaster recovery, with state and local governments spending billions more. This figure doesn’t even include last year’s devastating storm season, which ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Federal and local authorities should concentrate the bulk of their spending on the infrastructure necessary to limit storm damage, and on immediate relief after storms have struck. Right now, however, the majority of disaster-relief expenditure goes toward repairing flooded properties after hurricanes—a task better left to the private sector.

Read Nicole Gelinas’s story, “Storm Surge,” in the Winter 2018 issue of City Journal.  

Apr 3, 2018

E.J. McMahon and Seth Barron discuss recent corruption cases in New York and how the state government in Albany is attempting to revitalize struggling areas with “economic-development” programs.

Last month, Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, was found guilty on corruption charges for accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from two companies. Percoco’s conviction reinforces the perception that New York politics operates on a “pay-to-play” model.

Allegations of bid-rigging and other corrupt practices have dogged Albany ever since Governor Cuomo launched his signature economic-development plan, which provides subsidies to private firms to operate businesses in the state. Despite these efforts, New York continues to lose residents to other states every year.

Edmund J. McMahon is founder and research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, based in Albany. Follow him on Twitter @EjmEj.

Mar 21, 2018

Dennis Saffran and Seth Barron discuss New York City’s misguided family-reunification policies, which can have fatal consequences for children in distressed homes.

In the Summer 1997 Issue of City Journal, Saffran wrote an article entitled “Fatal Preservation,” which chronicled attempts by New York’s social-services agencies to keep children with their troubled and abusiveparents. The policy proved tragic for kids like six-year-old Elisa Izquierdo, killed at the hands of her crack-addicted mother in 1995. Elisa’s mother had regained custody of her daughter over the opposition of relatives and teachers. Too many other New York City children have met similar fates.

More than 20 years later, Saffran finds that, on balance, little has changed.  “Many in the social-work establishment, including officials in the administrations of New York City’s last two mayors . . . have remained hostile to [reforms] and committed to the old family-preservation orthodoxy.”

Dennis Saffran is a Queens-based appellate attorney, writer, and former GOP candidate for the New York City Council. He can be reached on Twitter @dennisjsaffran.

Mar 7, 2018

Heather Mac Donald and Frank Furedi discuss the hostility to free speech that has provoked disturbing incidents on campuses across the country and the ideology behind safe spaces, micro-aggressions, and trigger warnings. Their discussion, from a Manhattan Institute event held in June 2017, was moderated by City Journal contributing editor Howard Husock.

American universities are experiencing a profound cultural transformation. Student protests designed to shut downalternative opinions have become frequent and sometimes violent. Frank Furedi's What's Happened To The University? A Sociological Exploration of Its Infantilisation explores the origins of the anti-free speech climate at U.S. and U.K. universities.

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She has written extensively about political correctness on campus and was a recent target of student protests at several colleges, where she had been invited to discuss her New York Times bestseller, The War on Cops.

Frank Furedi is emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent. He has published articles in major newspapers in Europe and the United States and is the author of 17 books on topics including intellectual culture, parenting, education, and the politics of fear. Furedi is a frequent guest on British T.V. and radio.

Feb 21, 2018

Daniel DiSalvo joins Brian Anderson to discuss public-sector unions, freedom of speech, and the upcoming Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Janus next week. If the justices rule for the plaintiffs, employees of state and local governments across the country will be able to opt out of paying union fees. Public unions are often powerful political players, and a sharp drop in funding or membership could deal a heavy blow to their influence.

“The general result of public-sector unions’ outsize influence in politics over the last 30 years, especially at the state and local levels, is ever-larger and more expensive government,” writes DiSalvo in his City Journalarticle, “Judgment Day for Public Unions.”

Daniel DiSalvo is an associate professor of political science at the City College of New York, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and author of Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Feb 7, 2018

Amity Shlaes joins Seth Barron to discuss the competing goals of economic growth and income equality, and to take a look at how American presidents in the twentieth century have approached these issues.

Polls show that support for income redistribution is growing among younger generations of Americans, but such policies have a poor track record of achieving their goals. As Shlaes writes in her feature story in the Winter 2018 Issue of City Journal: “Prioritizing equality over markets and growth hurts markets and growth and, most important, the low earners for whom social-justice advocates claim to fight.”

Amity Shlaes chairs the board of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation and serves as presidential scholar at The King’s College. She is the author of Coolidge and The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.

Jan 24, 2018

John Tierney joins Seth Barron to discuss the Trump administration’s plans to reform how infrastructure projects are managed and funded.

Civil engineers and other experts (including here at City Journal) have warned for years that the country’s roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and rail lines are in serious need of repair. Thanks in part to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, infrastructure is now at the top of the national agenda.

But does the Trump administration actually have a workable strategy for infrastructure? John Tierney discusses the promise of the administration’s fresh approach, which breaks from past efforts in reducing Washington’s role. He wrote about the plan in his City Journal article, “Trump’s Infrastructure Opportunity.”

Tierney is a contributing editor of City Journal  and a contributing science columnist for the New York Times.

Jan 10, 2018

Max Eden joins Seth Barron to discuss student discipline and suspension policies, and how discipline “reform” has led to chaos in many classrooms.

In January 2014, in an attempt to reduce out-of-school suspensions, an Obama administration directive forced thousands of American schools to change their discipline policies. Proponents of the new discipline rules say that teachers and school administrators have been racially discriminatory in meting out punishments, creating a massive disparity in suspension rates between white and black students. Their claims, however, ignore the significant discrepancies in student behavior.

“We tend to see one of two things happen as suspensions drop: Schools get less safe or school administrators cheat,” wrote Max Eden at National Review Online, meaning that the schools separate disruptive students in ways that don’t technically count as “suspensions.”

Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Dec 27, 2017

Nicole Gelinas joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss how New York City saved its subway system after decades of decay and rampant crime from the 1960s to the early-1990s.

This episode originally aired on October 20, 2016.

Nicole Gelinas is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a columnist at the New York Post. Her story “How Gotham Saved Its Subways” appeared in the Summer 2016 Issue of City Journal.

Dec 13, 2017

Nicole Gelinas joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss the recent bombing at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and how the city is managing the streets in midtown Manhattan to handle not only gridlocked traffic but also the threat of vehicle-based terrorist attacks on pedestrians.

On Monday, December 11, New York City was stunned when a 27-year-old man from Bangladesh attempted to detonate an amateur pipe bomb during the morning rush-hour commute. The incident took place less than two months afteranother man intentionally drove his truck onto a lower Manhattan bike path, killing eight people.

Following a number of deadly vehicle-based attacks in Europe, large global cities have taken precautions to preventwould-be terrorists from running over pedestrians with motor vehicles. But in New York, measures taken by the NYPD and city transportation agencies have left many people wondering if the streets are any more secure than before.

Nicole Gelinas is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a columnist at theNew York Post.

Nov 29, 2017

Stephen Eide joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss the New York Police Department's “crisis intervention team” (CIT), which trains police officers to respond to situations involving people with serious mental illnesses.

In 2016, NYPD officers responded to more than 400 calls a day concerning “emotionally disturbed persons,” some of whom are suffering major psychiatric episodes. Officers receiving CIT trainingare better prepared to de-escalate these encounters.

CIT training has become a priority for big-city police departments, but as Eide notes, even the best-trained force can’t compensate for declining mental health services.

Stephen Eide is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an expert on public administration and urban policy. His story “CIT and Its Limits” (coauthored with Carolyn Gorman) appears in the Summer 2017 issue of City Journal.

Nov 15, 2017

City Journal managing editor Paul Beston joins Matthew Hennessey to discuss Paul’s new book, The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled the Ring.

For much of the twentieth century, boxing was one of the country’s most popular sports. Even long after the sport’s heyday, the men who dominated the ring still hold a place in American culture.

The Boxing Kings chronicles the history of the heavyweight championship in the United States, from 1882 to 2002, examining the lives and careers of 34 champions, with special emphasis on seven legends: John L. Sullivan, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson.

Paul Beston is managing editor of City Journal and author of the book, The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Rule the Ring.

Matthew Hennessey is associate op-ed editor at the Wall Street Journal and the author of Right Here, Right Now, to be published in 2018 by Encounter Books.

Nov 1, 2017

Judith Miller joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss the most recent Islamic terrorist attack in New York City.

Shortly after 3:00 p.m. on Halloween, a 29-year-old man from Uzbekistan, Sayfullo Saipov, drove a rented pickup onto a Hudson River Park bike path in Lower Manhattan. Within ten minutes, eight people were killed and more than a dozen injured. NYPD officers responded quickly after the attack began, shooting Saipov in the abdomen before he could cause more mayhem. He is in police custody, and details from the incident are still emerging.

Judith Miller is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a City Journal contributing editor, a best-selling author, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter formerly with The New York Times.

Oct 18, 2017

Heather Mac Donald joins City Journal associate editor Seth Barron to discuss the dubious scientific and statistical bases of the trendy academic theory known as “implicit bias.” The implicit association test (IAT), first introduced in 1998, uses a computerized response-time test to measure an individual’s bias, particularly regarding race. 

Despite scientific challenges to the test’s validity, the implicit-bias idea has taken firm root in popular culture and in the media. Police forces and corporate HR departments are spending millions every year reeducating employees on how to recognize their presumptive hidden prejudices.

Heather discusses the problems with implicit bias, the impact that the concept is having on academia and in the corporate world, and the real reasons for racial disparities in educational achievement and income levels.

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and author of the New York Timesbestseller The War on CopsHer article in the Autumn 2017 issue of City Journal is entitled, “Are We All Unconscious Racists?

Oct 4, 2017

John Tierney joins Aaron M. Renn to discuss the federal government’s efforts to limit electronic cigarettes (vaping), and the corruption of the public health profession more generally.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, public health officials combatted epidemics of cholera and dysentery through improvements in water and sewage systems. In its modern form, however, this once-noble profession acts largely as an advocate for progressive causes, with trivial priorities including taxes on soda, calorie counts for restaurants, and free condoms.

In recent years, public health officials in America have even turned against vaping—the most effective antismoking product ever created“The public-health establishment has become a menace to public health,” Tierney writes in City Journal.

John Tierney is a contributing editor to City Journal. He spent more than two decades as a reporter and columnist with the New York Times

Sep 20, 2017

Seth Barron and Nicole Gelinas join Brian Anderson to discuss the upcoming New York City mayoral election and some of the challenges facing the city today.

Bill de Blasio won the New York mayor’s office in 2013, pledging to take the city in a different direction from his successful predecessors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. From policing and taxes to housing and welfare, the mayor has pursued policies in opposition to those that helped turn the city around after decades of decline and made New York a symbol of urban recovery.

So far, however, most of the Giuliani/Bloomberg achievements remain intact; the city is flourishing, and de Blasio is expected to win reelection. But problems are mounting up: the region’s transportation infrastructure is in dire need of repair, street homelessness is on the rise, and New York’s political culture remains terribly corrupt.

Seth Barron is associate editor of City Journal and project director of the NYC Initiative at the Manhattan Institute. He writes primarily about New York City politics and culture.

Nicole Gelinas is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a columnist at the New York Post.

Sep 4, 2017

On Labor Day, we honor the American labor movement and the contributions that workers make to the strength and well-being of the country. It’s been more than 80 years since Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) guaranteeing the right of private-sector workers to unionize and bargain collectively for better pay and working conditions.

Today, the NLRA still governs the relationship between organized labor and employers—but in 2015, less than 10 percent of American workers belonged to a union. That’s down from nearly 40 percent in the 1950s. With economic competition from overseas and technological innovation changing the value of physical labor in the United States, maybe it’s time to rethink how American model of labor relations.

Oren Cass joins Brian Anderson to discuss labor unions, past and present, and to offer an alternative model for organized labor. This 10 Blocks episode is the third based on City Journal’s special issue, The Shape of Work to Come. The discussion draws on Oren’s essay, “More Perfect Unions.”

Oren Cass is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, where he focuses on issues ranging from welfare to climate change. Previously, he was domestic policy director of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Aug 23, 2017

Matthew Hennessey joins Aaron Renn to discuss the fading of the baby boom generation, the rise of tech-savvy millennials, and the challenge for those in-between, known as Generation X. This 10 Blocks episode is based on Matt’s essay from the Summer 2017 issue of City Journal, “Zero Hour for Generation X.”

While the baby boomers are finally preparing to depart the scene, “millennials could conceivably jump the queue, crowding out the more traditional priorities and preferences of the intervening generation—Generation X,” Matt writes. “If GenXers don’t assert themselves soon, they risk losing their ability to influence the direction of the country.”

Matthew Hennessey is associate op-ed editor at the Wall Street Journal and the author of Right Here, Right Now, to be published in 2018 by Encounter Books. 

Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.

Aug 9, 2017

Paul Beston joins Steven Malanga to talk about the history of the American high school and making high-quality career training central in today’s high schools. This Ten Blocks episode is the second based on City Journal’s special issue, The Shape of Work to Come.

In 1910, less than 20 percent of America’s 15-to-18-year-olds were enrolled in high school. By 1940, that figure had reached nearly 75 percent. The phenomenon became known as the American high school movement, and the impetus for it came from local communities, not from federal, or even state, government.

Today, however, high school diplomas poorly prepare students for finding good jobs. Despite automation and competition from overseas, surveys of businesses consistently show that hundreds of thousands of positions in manufacturing firms go unfilled.

One thing is abundantly clear: career and technical training in the U.S. hasn’t evolved to keep up with the transformation of the modern economy—and many schools have even slashed funding for vocational education.

Paul Beston is managing editor of City Journal and author of the forthcoming book, The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Rule the Ring. His story “When High Schools Shaped America’s Destiny” appeared inCity Journal‘s special issue.

Steven Malanga is the George M. Yeager Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and senior editor of City Journal. His story “Vocational Ed, Reborn” also appeared in the special issue.

Jul 26, 2017

Tevi Troy joins the Manhattan Institute’s Paul Howard to discuss a dreaded scenario: a bioterror attack in New York City.

Gotham’s status as a cultural and financial center makes it a more desirable target than any other city in the world. Of all the threats the city faces, a biological attack may be the most terrifying. 

Due its size, density, and transportation complexity bioterror would present a significant challenge. Luckily, New York’s unmatched police and counterterror forces—along with federal agencies—remain ever vigilant to keep residents and visitors safe.

Tevi Troy is a presidential historian, former White House aide, and former deputy secretary of Health and Human Services. His latest book is Shall We Wake the President? Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office.

Jul 12, 2017

Henry Olsen joins Brian Anderson to discuss Henry’s new book The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism.

For nearly 30 years, the Republican Party had defined itself by Ronald Reagan’s legacy: a strong military, free trade, lower taxes, and most important, smaller government. When Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president in 2016, many observers in the media and professional political circles asked a familiar question: Is the Republican Party still the Party of Reagan?

According to Henry Olsen, Trump’s election actually gives Republicans their best chance to “re-Reaganize” the GOP.

Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. From 2006 -2013, he served as Vice President and Director of the National Research Initiative at the American Enterprise Institute. He previously worked as Vice President of Programs at the Manhattan Institute and President of the Commonwealth Foundation.

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