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Thread: Urban blight and social isolation

  1. #51

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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner
    Ah Pete you from Grandmont? Rosedale Park? Franklin Park? I KNOW you're not talking about Brightmoor, maybe Old Redford or Warrendale?
    I grew up very near to Outer Drive and Meyers, just north of Seven Mile Road. I've tried to find a name for that neighborhood, but never came up with a thing. I know Grandmont, Rosedale Park, Brightmoor, Old Redford and Warrendale, and I know my 'hood wasn't those. As a kid, I grew accustomed to saying I was from the northwest side, not too far from the Tindal Rec Center.

    I moved away in the early '80s, but still go back occasionally (once or twice a year) to visit family in the city and in the suburbs.

  2. #52
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    <<MEven in the most depressed neighborhoods, people operate with some sense of rationale. Ghetto-dwellers are not rabid animals: shooting every which way all day every day>>

    True but what about aggressive pan-handlers? How are they percieved based on how big you are? And what about just plain opportunistic low-lifes?

    You know, I thought about this board the other day. I had gotten together with some friends Sun for Mothers day out, we had a nice afternoon. One of our group has health issues, had brought her 7 y/o dd up and the dd was getting restless toward the end of the dinner. I offered to take her outside to let her run around and give my friend a break.

    Sooooo, I took her out to the small playground abutting the parking lot. I pushed her on the swings and about 5 mins later a few kids came out of the park next to the lot. They came over to the swings and flipped 2 of the swings over the top of the set so that no one could sit on them. THen they turned their attention to my purse. THey were talking in Spanish and figuring how best to grab my purse (I took enough Spanish to know what they were talking about).

    Fortunately, a large group came out from the restaurant and I took the opportunity to grab friend's dd and head back to the restaurant.

    And I'm told my perception of inner city crime is just perception..

  3. #53
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    Follow the news more carefully and you will see that most inner-city violence is NOT random. The victims are usually drug dealers, felons or gang members, not innocent bystanders passing through to get to a concert.

    Even in the most depressed neighborhoods, people operate with some sense of rationale. Ghetto-dwellers are not rabid animals: shooting every which way all day every day.

    That's another point that I wanted to make. If you mind your business, more than likely nothing's going to happen to you. I'm not saying don't be careful, but mind your business.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  4. #54
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by lwbaby
    True but what about aggressive pan-handlers? How are they percieved based on how big you are? And what about just plain opportunistic low-lifes?
    I have to say that I have noticed a lot more agressive panhandlers and scam artists in cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta. You know the "I need a bus ticket to Somewhereville" line. They particularly focus on those who are obviously out-of-towners and actually stop to talk to them. We have less of those types in Boston, and I haven't noticed as many in NYC either. I think these types show up more when you have a downtown devoid of the working and middle-classes that caters only to suburbanites, tourists and conventioners.

  5. #55
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by the north omaha star
    That's another point that I wanted to make. If you mind your business, more than likely nothing's going to happen to you. I'm not saying don't be careful, but mind your business.
    More importantly: act like you have business and you know exactly where that business is.

  6. #56
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    Jmello, you are probably right when downtowns lack a solid residential base. It seems to be a vicious cycle, no one wants to move downtown because of low-lifes but they wouldn't be there if more people lived downtown and were more active in making their street a good place to live.

  7. #57
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by the north omaha star
    You should read a book called Blockbusting in Baltimore by Edward Orser. The premise of the book is exactly what you're talking about. I used it alot for my grad. school thesis.
    As a former Baltimorian, I was thrilled to find this book when I happened to come across it by chance at a used bookstore. It totally explains the perfect storm of forces, some societal, some downright criminal, that caused Edmonston Village in particular to go from being mostly white to mostly black in less than five years. I gather it was much the same in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  8. #58

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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    As a former Baltimorian, I was thrilled to find this book when I happened to come across it by chance at a used bookstore. It totally explains the perfect storm of forces, some societal, some downright criminal, that caused Edmonston Village in particular to go from being mostly white to mostly black in less than five years. I gather it was much the same in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
    You know, another good book on the same topic is The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit by Thomas J Sugrue. His book basically said the same thing: a perfect storm of forces following World War II -- the changing industrial economy, the emerging growth of the suburbs, the hegemony and collusion of the unions, and criminal real estate practices -- were all working under the surface in urban neighborhoods in the '50s and led to riots, disinvestment and isolation in subsequent decades.

  9. #59
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by lwbaby
    Jmello, you are probably right when downtowns lack a solid residential base. It seems to be a vicious cycle, no one wants to move downtown because of low-lifes but they wouldn't be there if more people lived downtown and were more active in making their street a good place to live.
    Let's tie this back to the start of the thread. When a city's downtown becomes nothing more than an entertainment center for tourists, suburbanites and conventioners, do the residents of the surrounding poor and working-class neighborhoods become isolated from their own downtown? If so, is this a necessary and preordained process, or can it be mitigated? Are these residents also isolated from the surrounding suburbs?

  10. #60
    Are these residents also isolated from the surrounding suburbs?

    No, as long as they "act like they have business and they know exactly where that business is"....

  11. #61
         
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    I hear that University of Chicago tells their students not to go into Washington Park. So there's this massive beautiful park right next door and most of the student population is too scared to visit it.
    Urban institutions of higher learning are the worst propogators of fear of "the other." Heaven forbid Mommy and Daddy find out that Susie might actually encounter a member of the urban underclass. Ironic, since universities purportedly espouse "learning."

  12. #62
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello
    Let's tie this back to the start of the thread. When a city's downtown becomes nothing more than an entertainment center for tourists, suburbanites and conventioners, do the residents of the surrounding poor and working-class neighborhoods become isolated from their own downtown? If so, is this a necessary and preordained process, or can it be mitigated? Are these residents also isolated from the surrounding suburbs?
    You raise a really good issue. Except for retaurants, how much of the downtowns of our "planner's dream cities" really serve the local population? The same might be true in smaller towns that have developed an arts or draw. Is there a hardware store in downtown Santa Fe? A grocery in downtown Boulder? No. If you live downtown, you need to drive to these places, just as you do in the suburbs. Call them pedestrian-friendly, but not resident -friendly. The mix of uses is just as important as the design - more so, I would say.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  13. #63
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    [<<Let's tie this back to the start of the thread. When a city's downtown becomes nothing more than an entertainment center for tourists, suburbanites and conventioners, do the residents of the surrounding poor and working-class neighborhoods become isolated from their own downtown?>>

    They do, I think.

    << If so, is this a necessary and preordained process, or can it be mitigated? Are these residents also isolated from the surrounding suburbs?>>

    What isolates some residents can't be easily mitigated (whole nother topic) and yes, they are often isolated from the surrounding suburbs. Is it necessary or preordained, not sure but certainly better public transit (or lack of which may or may not have been preordained) to the suburbs surrounding a city would open up options for isolated people. OTOH, people who move to the suburbs often do so to get off the busline. I know I did.

    My neighborhood is inaccessible to people who don't drive and that's by design, so I've been told otr.

  14. #64
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    how does the built environment reinforce perceptions of isolation even when, in reality, residents are technically able to access goods and services outside their neighborhood?
    One word: The expressway.

    In Baltimore, west of I-83 is a diverse and fairly vibrant albeit mostly gay neighborhood called Mount Vernon just north of the CBD. East of I-83 is total ghetto. In Jane Jacobs speak, the expressway is a "border vacuum" which because of it's noise and non-porousness, discourages a vibrant economy by sucking out life along it's perimeter. Though these residents on the east live only a mile from groud zero of downtown, the lifelessness and inhuman scale of the expressway makes traversing it something to be avoided on foot. The expressway effectively locks the poor into the east, exacerbating the economic disparity between east and west. When the poor venture west they cannot help feeling hateful, jealous and inferior. When the middle class are so ignorant as to venture east on foot as I once was, they are risking their life especially if their skin tone virtually announces the fact that they must be an outsider, and thus easy prey.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  15. #65
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    One word: The expressway. In Baltimore, west of I-83 is a diverse and fairly vibrant albeit mostly gay neighborhood called Mount Vernon just north of the CBD. East of I-83 is total ghetto. In Jane Jacobs speak, the expressway is a "border vacuum" which because of it's noise and non-porousness, discourages a vibrant economy by sucking out life along it's perimeter. Though these residents on the east live only a mile from groud zero of downtown, the lifelessness and inhuman scale of the expressway makes traversing it something to be avoided on foot. The expressway effectively locks the poor into the east, exacerbating the economic disparity between east and west. When the poor venture west they cannot help feeling hateful, jealous and inferior. When the middle class are so ignorant as to venture east on foot as I once was, they are risking their life especially if their skin tone virtually announces the fact that they must be an outsider, and thus easy prey.
    You can see the same dynamic in cities with large industrial rings encircling downtown (Atlanta, Cleveland, etc.). Of course, many of these industrial rings became easy routes for inner belt expressways. But, even where they did not, the industrial area (often filled with abandoned properties) acts as a significant barrier between downtown and surrounding residential areas.

    One of the strengths of Boston is that it has dense residential areas immediately adjacent to its downtown (North End, Chinatown, Fenway, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, South End, etc.). These uninterrupted connections foster a stronger connection between city residents and their downtown. The industrial area is along the railroad tracks to the north and southeast of the downtown, not encircling it.

    These residential neighborhoods with direct "connections' to downtown have, over time, become almost exclusively white and upper-class. So, the downtown businesses and services have adapted to serve this clientele. This, in effect, isolates those outside of this demographic from their own downtown. Downtown Crossing and Chinatown remain the only non-white, non-upper-class shopping, dining and service districts in all of central Boston.

    Of course, as I mentioned before, the major African-American neighborhoods are poorly served by the rapid transit system and lie beyond the man-made barrier of Melnea Cass Boulevard (See Map ). This wide avenue was built in a corridor that was originally cleared for the Inner Belt Expressway. The highway was never built, but the artificial scar remains. The only two direct rapid transit lines from the African-American neighborhoods to downtown meet at Downtown Crossing.

  16. #66
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    Quote Originally posted by Loulou
    As the original poster, who appreciates all of these responses, I'd like to clarify. The area I am looking at, for those familiar with the DC area, is Ward 8, East of the Anacostia. The area is physically/geographically isolated from the rest of the city - the Anacostia river provides a barrier to the north, large tracts of abandoned land and major highways surround the area on all other sides. The area is also quite demographically segregated (as many DC neighborhoods are) - 95% African American, many on public assistance, etc. In 2001 the metro line was extended out to this area, prior to which was only connected via highway bridges andspotty public bus service. My focus of interest is on the effect the metro has has on reducing (if at all) the social isolation of the neighborhoods, given that the geographic isolation has, to a small extent, been reduced.

    I hope this clears things up a bit.
    something like social isolation is hard to figure out from the outside. The best way to really get the answers would be to interview people in the neighborhood. That's not a really safe thing to do in Anacostia though. Maybe you could see if people would be bothered if you asked a few questions after church or right at the green line station where it's safer than out on the street.

    I've been to the heart of Anacostia many times. I was one of a handful of architects that designed the Anacostia Museum of African American History for Smithsonian. That museum has a research center (fort place off fort stanton road and suitland parkway) and might have contacts with community groups good for opinion gathering.

    One of my grad school (I'm also an MUP student) professors received a grant to study multi ethnic neighborhoods in NYC and write a book. she plans to interview as many children as possible as she feels they give the least guarded answers.

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