Detroit has been getting all the publicity lately, what with its bankruptcy filing and the attention its decades-long misrule has been getting in connection therewith. But as we never tire reminding our readers, it isn’t just Detroit. It’s also a bunch of other Eastern cities, including Philadelphia which got a bit of a spotlight in today’s New York Times (Jon Hurdle, Philadelphia Raises Stakes With Plans to Reverse Blight, Sep. 23, 2013, at p. A14).
In a nutshell, Philadelphia has to cope with 40,000 abandoned homes, lots and commercial buildings (as opposed to Detroit’s 60,000). And life in modern, urban America being what it is, where there is serious urban blight, there’s a surfeit of crackpot notions about what to do about it. In this particular case, the peddled nostrums abound. Thus, some pooh-bah of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations — you mean there is more than one? — wants to create a “land bank” and encourage “buyers for the abandoned properties who are committed to making improvements, instead of speculators, to acquire tax-delinquent properties.” Rots of ruck with that one, folks. Who but a hard-boiled speculator would be likely to invest money in decrepit stuff like that in the hope of making a buck? It evidently hasn’t occurred to these folks that so many people have abandoned Philadelphia over a period of years, if not decades, because they don’t want to live there, and have no intention of investing their money in deteriorating slums, at market rate no less. But hey man, reality be damned. Supporters of this scheme “envision a variety of uses for the abandoned properties, including market rate and affordable housing, commercial development, and open space.” And how can we overlook “urban farms”? Those too.
So is that it? Not on your life. We seem to recall that — it seems like only yesterday — the Mayor of Philadelphia took note of Philadelphia’s decrepit condition,* and announced that, to quote a new York Times headline, Philadelphia Mayor Seeks to Expand City’s Revival (N.Y. Times, Apr. 30, 2003, at p. A10) by pursuing redevelopment in its rotting areas. That was 10 years ago.
And so it goes in the City of Brotherly Love.
* Andrew Jacobs, A City Revived but With Buildings Falling Right and Left, N.Y. Times, Aug. 20, 2000, at p. A14. We never did figure out how a city can be “revived,” but with “buildings falling down right and left.”