They’re Singin’ Our Song

As readers who have been following our blog and our law journal writings know, for the past decade or so we have been following the decline of urban America, and the factors that have inspired it and continue to contribute to it. See our latest, Gideon Kanner, Detroit and the decline of Urban America, 2013 Mich. State Law Review 1547, which tells the story that neither the general press nor the urban planners like to confront and deal with. And if you do read it, don’t miss the picture on p. 1560.

This morning’s dispatch in the New York Times, made up for that, even if it made us sputter over our morning coffee. In an article in the The Arts section of all places, we came across a piece (Michael Kimmelman, Coping After Renewal Cleaves, NY Times, July 16, so15) that for a change acknowledges the reality that peoples’ wholesale abandonment of cities took place because  on the one hand, over the decades suburban living became more attractive, more lucrative and safer (a huge drawing card for families with children), and cities grew crime-ridden and unpleasant, with quality and safety of urban schools descending to catastrophic levels, to say nothing of the devastation wreaked upon cities by urban renewal, urban highways and redevelopment projects that destroyed modestly priced dwellings and displaced populations that sensibly pulled up stakes and headed out to the suburbs.

Quoth the Times:

“Urban renewal conspired to promote white flight, encouraged gated developments . . . and destroyed traditional African-American neighborhoods, replacing them with with public housing complexes that were left to rot.

And as for urban freeways, we never tire of noting that it was former Detroit Mayor Jeffries who accurately predicted way back in the 1940s that while freeways would provide easier commuting to suburbanites’ city jobs, they would also make it easier for city dwellers to move out to the suburbs with the result that cities — notably Detroit — would become depopulated and go bankrupt. Which is exactly what happened.

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