Bye, Bye American Cities — New York Times Begins to Recognize Today’s Urban Reality

Don’t miss the front-page article in today’s N.Y. Times, Timothy Williams, Blighted Cities Prefer Razing To Rebuilding, Nov. 12, 2001, at p. A1. This is one of those journalistic pieces where the title says it all.

The article, though focusing on the decline of Baltimore, also takes a quick look at other cities and recognizes the inevitable conclusion that rebuilding declining American cities is a pipedream, that they have been declining for decades and continue doing so now, and notes that it would be cheaper to raze the decrepit, vacant urban buildings than to maintain them. In the meantime urban populations continue to flow out, not into the cities.

To read the entire article click here.

Follow up. What strikes us as noteworthy is that as of today, two days after the above NY Times story appeared, it  does not appear to be picked up by other papers, or discussed on land-related blogs. Why?

Second follow up. Suspicions confirmed. Today’s N.Y. Times (11/15/13) carries two letters to the editor on the subject of this post. One is from Richard M. Daley (former mayor of Chicago, in case you need an introduction), and Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, one of the foremost urban basket cases of America.*  The other letter is from Thomas E. Wilcox, president of something called Baltimore Community Foundation. In other words these folks have a dog in this fight, and they have it that though deindustrialized cities “are facing significant challenges, . . . [those] are not insurmountable.” As for the Baltimore dude, he assures us that “more and more residents can look forward to a comfortable lifestyle in a vital part of America.” In other words, in the sweet bye and bye there’ll be pie in the sky.

The most interesting thing is that none of these folks has anything to say about how it happened that thriving industrial American cities have been reduced to economic, civic, and social ruins. If you are an intelligent English-speaking Martian you may get the idea from reading these letters that one day the folks who constituted the population of these cities just up and left for no particular reason. Wouldn’t you think that making sure we understand how this urban calamity came about, and what role government policies played in it, would be essential if we really mean to turn the clock back and restore those cities to their once-admirable status quo ante?

Third follow up. For a gallery of pictures from Baltimore. click here . Note however that the pictures preponderate in favor of “urban farming” so we suspect that they convey an image that is better than reality would warrant.


*     To get an idea of what Gary looks like, click here