On Tuesday morning, we were fortunate enough to hear from TRIP leaders Phil Chin and Landy Dong, who both co-founded the Chinatown organisation TRIP when they were still mere bus drivers. Their stories fascinated me, and really set an example to show others that it was possible to accomplish great feats even if it seemed as though you have little power. They were able to provide a ‘taxi service’ during the bus strike, shuttling residents of Chinatown to and from important appointments. Their work certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed, and set the stage for future endeavours regarding transportation amongst Chinatown. Coming from a big city like Hong Kong, where they are simply known for efficient transportation and trains that come to platforms every two minutes, riding the inconsistent Muni has been somewhat of a challenge. However, I’ve definitely noticed that the Chinatown buses such as the 1 or 30 lines run far more frequently than the N Judah, which I take everyday to get to Wo Hei Yuen. It’s a hassle trying to either rush the one that comes in 4 minutes, or wait 30 more minutes to take the one coming in 34. Time is essential, and I believe that the residents of Chinatown really take it into account when working on different lines.
The highlight of my week was definitely going on the City Hall dome tour on Tuesday afternoon. It wasn’t until afterwards when I shared my experience with others did I realise that this wasn’t a tour necessarily open to the public, which made it all the more special. I was intrigued by the architecture and thought going into the building of City Hall, from using old growth trees to create a sturdier structure, to picking horse hairs to bind and hold the dome together, it was the most interesting experience I have had so far in the Urban Institute program. After the tour, we were able to talk to two former CCDC staff, current legislative aids about both policy making and the other side of it. I thought that it was interesting when they mentioned that they didn’t really work with the judicial system, and mainly interacted with the executive branch (mayor’s office). I had always assumed that all three branches would constantly work with each other to maintain checks and balances, yet it seemed as if there was a focus on both the legislative and executive branches working together, while the judicial system was operating completely on its own.
On Thursday, we first began with an introduction to Sustainability. Taking AP Environmental Science this year, I quickly learned that environmental justice was perhaps not really my niche when venturing into law. I knew that I much prefered the human interactions when dealing with the justice system on a day to day basis. However, listening to Deland gave me a new perspective on environmental sustainability by using the four block framework (environmental quality, economic vitality, social equity, and cultural continuity), and by showing us what CCDC was doing to help relieve this issue. We were attempting to make public housing green (by transforming the Ping Yuen Public Housing Buildings into a model for healthy and environmentally sustainable living. We also acquired, preserved and upgrade private building, enhanced public realm and open space, explored district water and green infrastructure, create open data, and engaged community stakeholders.
During lunch, we spoke to the board members of the CTA, and it was fascinating to listen to how they got into the CTA, and rose up to become president and vice presidents. Their participation is really important to the community, and ensures that all voices can be heard. I also found it very interesting that one CTA vote was the equivalent of approximately 6 votes, which meant that candidates would always come during campaigns to ensure that they received CTA’s votes.
In the afternoon, Andrew and I explored the design of the new Chines playground. We thought that the mix of activities would allow people of all ages to utilize the space. The play structure catered for younger kids, while the basketball courts appealed more to a teenage audience. There was also a lot of open space that seniors could use for taichi or dancing, and an indoor area as well if they needed to cool off. Years of detailed planning really shone through in the plans, as everything was carefully placed and had its own purpose.
– Guinivere Yeung