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Cities and Warfare: The Impact of Terrorism on Urban Form

NCJ Number
Edward L. Glaeser; Jesse M. Shapiro
Date Published
December 2001
31 pages
In this paper, an overview was presented on the economic links between warfare and terrorism and urban development, as well as the impact of large-scale violence on urban development in the 20th century and the future of downtown New York City.
In the past, large-scale violence has impacted cities in three ways: (1) cities with a high concentration of people were viewed as safe harbors; (2) cities were seen as primary targets causing people to leave and vacate them; and (3) cities created a closeness between people and business thereby, minimizing transportation costs, so when transportation costs rose, the demand for urban proximity tended to increase. The economic connections between warfare and urban development were presented with focus on the cities of Jerusalem, London, Berlin, Paris, and New York City. The paper begins with a discussion on the impact of warfare on cities in a broad historical context, with consideration in the ways warfare had historically interacted with urban land use. Then, empirical evidence was reviewed on warfare and urban form. A variety of data sources were utilized to get an idea of the impact of large-scale violence on urban development in the 20th century. Finally, the future of downtown New York or New York City was discussed in relation to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The link between cities and mass violence historically has been strong and complex. Evidence on war and cities in the 20th century suggested the effect of wars on urban form could be large, such as in Berlin during World War II. However, both terrorism and wars have not significantly altered urban form. This lends itself to the thought that the overall impact of terror on America’s cities would likely be small. References and tables