Greg Lindsay's Blog

February 03, 2017  |  permalink

Airports: The New Public Square?

image

Never in my wildest dreams while writing Aerotropolis did I imagine airports would become the locus of political protests — especially sustained, passionate demonstrations and occupations that are arguably the strictest test of whether a place is truly “public” or urban. And yet, here we are. The protests ignited by President Trump’s January 27 executive order banning arrivals from seven majority-Muslim nations — an order I vehemently disagree with as well — improbably rallied around the international airports where visitors and legal permanent residents were being illegally detained. Amazing scenes have played out at New York’s JFK, LAX, Washington Dulles, Boston Logan, Denver International and elsewhere as citizens rush to defend our right to free movement and arguably cosmopolitanism itself.

I was honored to be quoted by several journalists writing about the unlikelihood of airports as protest sites. The Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne quoted my doubts that protests could be sustained (and I hope he proves me wrong):

At overtaxed airports like LAX, those spaces are bottlenecks on the best of days. It was precisely that quality, as vessels of public space easily stoppered, that demonstrators exploited.

But that exploitation cuts both ways. Greg Lindsay — senior fellow at the New Cities Foundation and co-author with John D. Kasarda of the book “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next” — points out that the in-betweenness of the airport landscape is not simply architectural. It’s also legal.

“The protests illustrated how effectively various authorities could throttle various choke points to deny access,” he told me in an email. “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had to order the Port Authority Police to re-open the AirTrain to JFK after they had closed it to limit the arrival of protesters via the subway.”

Who knows? Maybe the airport protests will fade as new White House decisions generate fresh controversies. And crackdowns on dissent, as Lindsay notes, may be far easier to execute at an airport than in the middle of a city.

But something tells me that any smart activist who looks closely at the airport protests will see something of a blueprint.

And Curbed’s Alissa Walker quoted my wonder at how even the unloveliest spaces at JFK suddenly became fully urbanized by protestors’ energy:

At LAX, the Tom Bradley International Terminal had recently been refurbished to add more restaurants and shops specifically to accommodate people who were there to welcome arriving passengers. Last weekend, the renovation provided a bright, welcoming environment with food, seating, and restrooms—much like an actual public plaza.

“It was amazing to see,” said Lindsay after attending JFK’s protests. “These pathways that are almost never used, they became temporarily urbanized in a way that they never had been before. You could start to see JFK operate as a real urban space.”

By Monday morning, after a stay on the order had been issued by a federal court, and some detainees had been released, the large-scale demonstrations were over. But many airports remain filled with protesters, pop-up law offices, and family members awaiting news on traveling relatives. The hashtag #OccupyAirports has also cropped up, signifying that this one-weekend stand could potentially evolve into a movement more like Occupy Wall Street, which took over U.S. public spaces for months.

Whose airports? OUR AIRPORTS.

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories:  |  Comments


About Greg Lindsay

» Folllow me on Twitter.
» Friend me on Facebook.
» Email me.
» See upcoming events.

image
Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a senior fellow of the New Cities Foundation — where he leads the Connected Mobility Initiative  — and the director of strategy for LACoMotion, a new mobility festival coming to the Arts District of Los Angeles in November 2017.

He is also a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, a contributing writer for Fast Company and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Blog

November 10, 2017

Intel’s “Passenger Economy” Live at URBAN-X

October 23, 2017

Smart Cities NYC: Integrated Urban Mobility

October 19, 2017

Deep risks and extreme failures: New tools to imagine resilience

October 07, 2017

Have Deck, Will Travel

» More blog posts

Articles by Greg Lindsay

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is…an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

Fast Company  |  September 21, 2015

HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

Inc.  |  March 2015

Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

Inc.  |  March 2015

5 Global Cities of the Future

Global Solution Networks  |  December 2014

Cities on the Move

Medium  |  November 2014

Engineering Serendipity

New York University  |  October 2014

Sin City vs. SimCity

Harvard Business Review  |  October 2014

Workspaces That Move People

Inc.  |  April 2014

The Network Effect

Atlantic Cities  |  March 2014

How Las Vegas (Of All Places) May Be About to Reinvent Car Ownership

Wired (UK)  |  October 2013

How to Build a Serendipity Engine

Next American City  |  August 2013

IBM’s Department of Education

» See all articles