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  • 04/06/2012
  • Posted by staff

Atlantic Cities: What Cities Looking to Shrink Can Learn From New Orleans

Very interesting essay in The Atlantic Cities. Seems the NY Times Magazine article, "Jungleland", has stirred up a lot of passion as part of the national debate on recovery and rebuilding in the Lower Ninth Ward...and that's a good thing. We need the world to see what's really happening here, as well as the major challenges we continue to face.

By Roberta Brandes Gratz

What Cities Looking to Shrink Can Learn From New Orleans PHOTO : Roberta Brandes Gratz

Unproven theories abound as to how cities with a diminished population might “shrink” their footprint to ease the financial burden of maintaining an infrastructure created to serve a larger city. By moving the few remaining residents out of the most diminished neighborhoods and into under-utilized spaces in healthy areas, the theory goes, the now-smaller city saves money, strengthens neighborhoods worth saving and prepares for a better future.

‘Unproven’ is the operative word here. History makes plain that if you plan for shrinkage, a city will continue to shrink, not grow stronger.

American cities started losing population after World War II with the creation of suburbs. "Planned Shrinkage," no different than today’s shrinkage strategies, was New York’s solution to a South Bronx that looked like Dresden after the war and other failing neighborhoods. Fire houses, police stations, schools closed, garbage ignored, streets unrepaired.


Today, one community exemplifies both the consequences and costs of shrinkage and the regeneration path of incremental but veritable re-growth.

That singular place is the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, skeptics assumed the worst. Officially, the city did not turn its back on the working-class neighborhood of the Lower Ninth, but few dollars and little energy have been expended there. Residents will tell you that there was not much in the way of city services to shrink.

A recent New York Times Magazine article, “Jungleland,” offered an exaggerated look at what’s happened since to the acres of vacant land in the once heavily populated working class neighborhood. The impression is one of an almost primeval forest taking over. The author ignored blocks of rebuilt houses and clusters of homes scattered among the overgrown lots. But he did highlight the inevitable consequences of the removal of city services: piles of broken up concrete and construction debris, discarded sofas, bags of garbage, toilets, a burnt car and lots of tires are randomly dumped, costs that are inevitable in even a semi-shrunk area. Considerable acreage is reverting to unkempt nature.

But the Lower Ninth Ward is also growing again slowly. Residents have defied expectations and expert predictions and are re-staking their claim. READ MORE >>

via www.theatlanticcities.com


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