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Thread: The South Bronx - NY Times Article

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    The South Bronx - NY Times Article

    There's an interesting article in today's NY Times about the South Bronx: "In the Bronx, Blight Gave Way to Renewal." Link here.

    Remember when President Clinton toured the neighborhood, then characterized by vacant lots and abandoned buildings? Hard to believe, but it was 30 years ago today.

    In the mid-1980s, I toured the area with my brother-in-law, who had grown up there. It was a real eye-opener at the time; a few years later, I decided to study planning. One of these days I'll have to scan and post my black-and-white photos of the neighborhood. I didn't realize they would become artifacts of a dark period for New York City and many other cities around the country.

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    It certainly is an interesting story, I would like to read a deeper account of the planning behind it. It also raises a rather interesting subject in terms of urban design, in the fact that apparently this area was a product of conventional suburban planning. To what extent this is the case I'm not sure as I doubt the author has a background in urban planning, but I wonder whether a story like this would ever be published by proponents of new urbanism and other glorifiers of supposedly true urbanism with density and mixed-use environments. There seems to exist a vocal coalition in our profession that is eager to co-opt any successful urban redevelopment and brand it as a product of neotraditional ideals. This doesn't seem to be the case here at all.

    Could this be a model for the redevelopment of other hollowed-out cities like Philadelphia and Detriot? If the solution does involve larger-lot residential planning and more automobile-oriented subdivisions, would this receive the support of the urban planning profession as embodied by the APA and the blue-shirt crowd?

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Uh....Mud Princess....that was Carter that toured the South Bronx 30 years ago.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Oops

    Uh, yes, I just noticed that...

    I was thinking Carter, my fingers just weren't connected to my brain!

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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Could this be a model for the redevelopment of other hollowed-out cities like Philadelphia and Detriot? If the solution does involve larger-lot residential planning and more automobile-oriented subdivisions, would this receive the support of the urban planning profession as embodied by the APA and the blue-shirt crowd?
    Funny you mention this. My former boss related a story about working on a neighborhood plan in Detroit about 10 years ago (actually Hamtramck, a working-class enclave surrounded by Detroit). He said the initial plan was to build on the area's urban character -- bringing in some multifamily buildings with ground floor retail and the like. The community rejected it and said they wanted ranch-style development with white picket fences. My former boss said he questioned why they would do this, when people are rejecting the suburban development type around the country in favor of more urban stuff. The most memorable response was, "those people had a chance to reject the urban style, live in and reject the suburban style, and come back to the urban. We want what they had. Give us a chance to do the same."

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    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Cool story! I remember when I got out of school, I only sent two resume's north of where I'm from because I can't stand cold weather. One was to Minneapolis and the other was to the South Bronx. SB would have been an intersting position, especially right out of school. But I didn't get that job.
    ...my lifestyle determines my death style!
    - Metallica

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Could this be a model for the redevelopment of other hollowed-out cities like Philadelphia and Detriot?
    It has already been occurring in North Philadelphia, with suburban style subdivisions replacing the row houses and public housing of yesteryear. Take a look at the latest aerials from the North 12th and Girard Streets area.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Most residential infill development in Buffalo, even that located in areas that normally lend itself to higher-density development such as transit stations, has followed a suburban model. I gave my thoughts on why the Rust Belt rejected new urbanism in this thread, and I think some of the same reasons apply to the suburban nature of the city's infill. Specifically:

    * Negative associations with urban-like built environments are still stuck in the heads of much of an insular and aging population, thanks to lots of cultural baggage left over from years of decline, flight, and racial tensions. Grid + density + "deepways" oriented houses = ghetto.

    * Very low land values offer no incentive for compact development.

    * Conservative local developers and builders are leery of straying from a "tried and true" formula of single family houses on large lots in a cul-de-sac filled subdivision.

    * Widespread belief that cities should copy the built environment of its suburbs, thanks to belief in a spurious relationship logical fallacy. "Amherst is growing. Amherst is dominated by low-density residential development. Therefore, Amherst is growing because it is dominated by low-density residential development on winding drives and cul-de-sacs. For Buffalo to grow, it needs to be more like Amherst, and have plenty of low-density residential development in similar subdivisions."

    * Desperate local officials have low expectations and a fear of scaring developers away from their communities by asking for more than the bare minimum. "Any development is better than no development."

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    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    At one point - it may've been the late 1980s or early '90s - community leaders and politicians discussed the concept of returning some of the vacant land in the South Bronx to small-scale agriculture. I think there were even a few small "farms" that started producing salad greens and herbs for the NYC restaurant market. I'm not sure what became of this effort, but I found it compelling. With today's "local food" movement, could that ever be revived? Or is NYC real estate just too valuable?

    In cities that are shrinking, leaving large amounts of vacant land, is suburban-style neighborhood development inevitable? I'd like to think it would be an opportunity for "smarter" redevelopment.

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