Rethink, Rebuild the Cities

“By the early 1980s, when both President Obama and I were in college, the anti-big-government, pro-privatization rhetoric of the Reagan years was catching on, and the entire notion of public spending, let alone spending on large public works projects, was becoming passé.

In many major cities this void was filled by private developers, who began refurbishing parks and old historic quarters. The result was sanitized versions of real cities organized around themed districts, convention centers and sports complexes. Meanwhile the roads, bridges and sewer systems that held these cities together were allowed to disintegrate.

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. And environmental standards for new construction were not only encouraged, they became the law — and have been for more than a decade.”

Ouroussoff, Nicolai. 2009. “Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time is Now.” The New York Times, March 25.

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