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A Blueprint For Making Cities Efficient, Sustainable And Livable

Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for The New York Times, argues that the time is right for a new vision of rebirth for America's ailing cities. He applies this new vision to the challenges of New Orleans, Los Angeles, the Bronx, and Buffalo.
March 30, 2009, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"There's hardly a city in America where Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Projects Administration in the 1930s didn't leave its mark, from riverfront parks to schools and housing projects. Eisenhower's investment in highways set the stage for decades during which suburban interests trumped urban ones. In many cities, intracity highways became dividing lines between white and black.

At the same time Europe and Asia began to supplant America as places where visions of the future were being built. The European Union spent decades building one of the most efficient networks of high-speed trains in the world, a railway that has unified the continent while leading to the cultural revival of cities like Brussels and Lille.

The problem in America is not a lack of ideas. It is a tendency to equate any large-scale government construction project, no matter how thoughtful, with the most brutal urban renewal tactics of the 1950s.

With money now available to invest again in such basic needs, I'd like to look at four cities representing a range of urban challenges and some of the plans available to address them. Evaluated and addressed together as part of a coordinated effort, they could begin to form a blueprint for making our cities more efficient, sustainable and livable.

President Obama has a rare opportunity to build a new, more enlightened version of this country, one rooted in his own egalitarian ideals. It is an opportunity that may not come around again."

Thanks to Mark Boshnack

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Published on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 in The New York Times
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