The City Makes a Comeback

Nicolai Ouroussof uses four cities--New Orleans, Los Angeles, The Bronx, and Buffalo--as case studies on how America's urban areas, long neglected, can once again be great.
April 2, 2009, 1pm PDT | Judy Chang
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"Even China, a country where centralized planning often looks like a grotesque parody of American postwar development, is beginning to move toward more sustainable, dense urban models. The government recently announced an $88 billion plan for freight and passenger trains that will link every major urban center along the country's coast, from Beijing to the Pearl River Delta. And it is building miles of subway lines in booming cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

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. One result has been that pioneering projects that skillfully blend basic infrastructure with broader urban needs like housing and park space are usually killed in their infancy. Another is that we now have an archaic and grotesquely wasteful federal system in which upkeep for roads, subways, housing, public parkland and our water supply are all handled separately.

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. Though none of the plans are ideal as they stand today (and some of them represent only the germ of an idea), 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."

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Published on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 in The New York Times
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