French Utopia Devolves

Born from the 1968 riots, a carefully planned community in France has been steadily taken over by crime and unrest, prompting some to question whether its utopian ideals actually work.
August 9, 2010, 10am PDT | Nate Berg
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The area is now a hotbed of racial clashes and social controversies. Recent waves of crime have underlined the area's decline.

"Villeneuve was a careful mixture of private and public housing, including subsidized apartments for low-income families, with branch offices of city hall and a neighborhood corporation that would take care of public spaces while providing residents construction, plumbing and painting services at moderate costs.

In the spirit of '68, we made a bet, that with this social mixing we could help everyone advance,' said Jean-Philippe Motte, a longtime city councilor from the political left. 'Of course, that was 40 years ago.'

Villeneuve began to deteriorate in the 1990s, with more poverty and joblessness, especially as immigrants from former colonies of the Maghreb and black Africa altered the original social and economic balance. Some of those who could afford to leave did so, and a population of nearly 16,000 dropped to the current 12,000. Three of the original nine schools closed."

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Published on Monday, August 9, 2010 in The New York Times
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