Fortifying America: Planning for Fear

As professional planners we have to take a new ethical stand. Gated and walled residential complexes will be even more popular among residential real estate developers. We have to ask, what kind of security will protect all of us and what kind will just divide some of us?

Edward J. BlakelyFranklin D. Roosevelt said, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself".

We are now a fearful and tearful nation. Our fears are our enemies in many ways. Some fear brings out the best in us. This was clearly the case for many of the survivors of the World Trade Center disaster. I live in New York City and I work only about a mile from ground zero. I experienced fear. I also experienced rage. Why would or could anyone do this to any other humans? However, after a few weeks, I now see clearly that this act was designed to cause fear and bring panic. This horrible act will be repeated to threaten our allies and to bring greater fear into the civilized world. It is a strike against hope and a desperate act by desperate people to intimidate and to destroy our nation and our way of life from the inside not from the outside. If this shadowy enemy can breed fear in the American people and leverage that fear into making us commit cowardly acts against our own citizens and other innocent people elsewhere in the world-they win.

The fear within the nation did not start on September 11, 2001. It started when we as a nation began the process of separating ourselves more deeply by race and class. As we have segregated our communities, we have created wedges of fear across our nation. We are more deeply segregated according to the latest U.S. census figures than at any time since the Civil War. As a segregated ghettoized nation we have created fear compounds. Some of these compounds house the rich in gated communities. Some compounds restrain the poor with freeway walls and railroad tracks. The symbols of social and economic distance were in some ways illustrated by the Twin Towers.

As we try to recover from this tragedy, we are finding it hard to find the ways to recognize the lives of the poor dishwashers as we mourn the lives of stockbrokers, financiers, and public safety officials. This separate mourning process compounds our tragedy. Already as New York seeks to heal itself, there are voices that protest the notion of rebuilding the segregated social fabric of Wall Street and the deeply segregated New York Fire Department and the equally segregated building trades. We do not need these wedges in our society as we try to bring the nation together; we have to build away from fear not toward more fear through less socioeconomic balance.

Signs of Fear

The early signs are not good. Fortress mentality is already at work. Most of the news is about arming pilots, more police and national guard at airports and the like. This talk along with talk of military operations misses the point. The real war here will not be won by a few smart bombs that we can see on television. There are increasing moves to seal our borders and reduce immigration as well as increase surveillance on our own citizens. All of this is fear building. This creates a winning atmosphere for our new adversaries. The real battle here is for hearts and heads. We cannot bomb or subdue ideas, particularly when these ideas prey on our own soft underbelly of inequality.

America cannot and should not go down the road of the deeply divided developing world with compounds for the wealthy complete with armed guards. This is the very kind of nations like Venezuela and Mexico where high walls and armored cars protect the wealthy from the peasants. If we imitate this form of physical, symbolic segregation, we will end up defeating ourselves from within. This precisely what our new enemies want.

Planning Against and not for Fear

As professional planners we have to take a new ethical stand. We have to ask, what kind of security will protect all of us and what kind will just divide some of us. Gated and walled residential complexes will be even more popular among residential real estate developers. New forms of separated social institutions will be seen as merely pragmatic and some forms of racial and ethnic and religious segregation tolerable. All these form of fear-inducing behavior choke the core of democracy and a free society. So, as planners we must not give into fear in the form of a little fencing here and a few walls there. Even in its most seemly benign form fear based separation has the seed of destroying an entire nation. Let's not give in and we win.

Edward J. Blakely is Dean of the Robert J. Milano Graduate School in New York City. He was just elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He was previously Dean of the School of Urban Planning and Development at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Dean Blakely also served as the Chair of City and Regional Planning at the University of California at Berkeley where he assisted the City of Oakland recovery efforts form both the earthquake in 1989 and the Fires in 1991. He is author of Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States and Fundamentals of Economic Development Finance.



Windows of Hope Plans for Help

Mr. Blakely's article opines that we mourn only the stockbrokers, not the dishwashers. Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund has been set up to help the families of the food service workers who were killed at the World Trade Center. More than 1000 US restaurants have pledged part or all of their proceeds on October 11; participating restaurants by state and an address for donations are at Please post this. Even though it is not about the height of buildings, it shows the heights to which some people can aspire to help others.

Invisible walls

There is little difference between a gated community and a standard subdivision of single-family homes. Both are single-purpose districts with built-in auto dependence. High-density, multi-family, low-income districts, ghettos and barrios can also be described as single-purpose and car dependent.

Without the car, none of these planned communities offers residents a sustainable lifestyle. Without the car, each would be forced to rezone from residential to mixed-use. Some homes would become commercial structures. Some homes moved to create farmland and openspace. Fences would fall. Pedestrian routes would slice through private property, irreverently.

The US economy is based on an unsustainable level of driving and flying for work and leisure, trucking and shipping for for industrial production and distribution. What is the global economy but transport of the longest distances?

Are the problems related to car dependency and the problems related to dependence upon global trade related? Is globalization sustainable? My tentative answer: Yes and No.

We are segragated not by race or class, but by unsustainably inflated, inanimate industrialization.

Art Lewellan

Fear-Induced Behavior

Our collective national psyche is in the grips of fear-induced behavior, and it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. We are a nation that, only a month ago, had thousands of police officers looking for Chandra Levy while we debated Gary Condit's reliability as a member of a sensitive Congressional committee.

In the days before September 11th, our politicians were bickering over ways to divvy up the budget surplus. These same politicians are the ones who let us down. While they frolicked in Washington, they blithely ignored the groups that tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993, and who finally got the job done. Where were the select House and Senate committees on intelligence?

After Pearl Harbor, there were Congressional hearings on what happened to our government, and where it failed. We aren't seeing the same thing today, and I don't hear anyone calling for them. Instead, we're rushing out to buy gas masks and stock up on Cipro and ammunition.

The Sears Tower wants Chicago cops in the lobby alongside so many security guards they are already tripping over each other. Concrete barricades are lined up on the sidewalks, and picture ID's are required of all tenants. Tell me how any of this window dressing will deter another terrorist attack. It's only purpose is to calm the hysterical public.

We have become lazy in this country, and that's why we're afraid. We want someone else to protect us. So the call goes out to get more cops, more soldiers, more paid professionals. Over the last twenty years we've eliminated volunteers, dissolved communities, and let the family unit fall apart.

When you mention Venezuela and Mexico, it reminds me of how common it is to see soldiers in their airports. Now we will see them in U.S. airports, too. On September 11, untold numbers of Americans, frantic over a possible shortage, rushed out to fill their gas tanks. Eager to get "theirs" before someone else did.

Until we realize as a nation that we are all in this together, these types of events will get worse. Until we decide to accept personal responsibility for our decisions, our politicians, and our communities, expect the walls to rise higher and higher.

But people who live behind walls find that the professionals they paid to guard the gates inevitably fail to show up for work. How much can you pay someone else to die for you? Only those who believe in their cause are willing to do what it takes to defend it.

Unacceptable Misuse Of The Misery Of Others

It's been said many times in the past few weeks that a national tragedy brings out the worst and best in a people. We've seen some of the best in the actions of ordinary people on a high jacked plane (and yes, some of them may have been dishwashers...) These people recognized that they were doomed,but chose to fight against further slaughter. We've also seen average Americans (some of them dishwashers) who've stepped out of their daily lives to volunteer to help strangers in any way they could.

Unfortunately, we've also seen those who should have known better try to use this tragedy to forward their own agendae. We've seen supposed men of God argue that the actions of persons whose private sexual orientations these "men of God" oppose allowed this atrocity to happen. We've seen supposedly respected commentators in the architectural field suggest that tall buildings cause pathology -- that the buildings invited their own doom. And now we see a social commentator connecting segregation in this country to this atrocity, arguing that our natural desire to prevent further harm will result in greater segregation, that a fire department decimated by tragedy should not be rebuilt because it was segregated, and that we only mourn because wealthy people were slaughtered.

Mr. Blakely, this essay is an opportunistic misuse of the misery of others. I can only hope that those persons (of all races, religions and sexual orientations) whose loved ones perished in this outrage never read your words and feel even more pain. I hope people outside of the field of planning are not reading this material and thinking that planners are this uncaring.You owe those mourners -- as well as those who struggle in this country to right the wrongs of segregation -- an apology.

The influence of fear on development

Thank you Dr. Blakely for your insights. I met you briefly in Los Angeles while working for Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas. I was intrested in pursueing a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning. However, I felt a stronger need to pursue other intrest in business and management. So for 5 years I opened and managed busineses only to find myself understanding more clearly the need for sound planning. I have since joined the Hartford Planning Dept. and decided to enter a masters program in Planning.

In response to this editorial, It's clear that the patterns or demographic shifts within most cities have everything to do with "quality of life" and your financial resources. The wealthly move to locales that exclude that they are uncomfortable with, While those with less resouces are frequently trapped in neighborhoods bordered by freeways,railroad tracks, and other physical boundries.

Re: Letting the Terrorists Win

So what then Mr. Lewyn, should we just continue to propagate the fear mentality and fortify America - leading to more gated communities and the like. You reject Mr. Blakely's propositions but offer no alternatives other than just accepting the things America seems to be doing right now. Isn't it a planner's role to supply better alternatives?

The Fear Psychology

Any democracy is a true one where the citizen experiances physical and mental freedom. One of the basic concept of terrorism is to strike at this level. Sept 11th will not be a blow to the world's greatest democracy in the form of intelligence failure, but one where this very basis of democracy will get curbed. The biggest challenge for the planner shall be to deal at this proverbial level of planning. Time shall be the testing arena for whether 'the fear psychology' holds up or is broken down by the very basis, ie. DEMOCRACY

Letting the terrorists win

Dean Blakely writes: "If we imitate this form of physical, symbolic segregation, we will end up defeating ourselves from within. This precisely what our new enemies want." I don't think Osama bin Laden could care less whether we are segregated or not. His aim is to physically exterminate us, not to divide us or unite us or whatever. Anything we do that prevents his gang from exterminating us is something that defeats rather than aiding terrorism.

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