Friday, February 22, 2008

The Death of Cities

This is a building where our deeply-troubled public school system once stored its supplies, and then one day apparently walked away from it all, allowing everything to go to waste. The interior has been ravaged by fires and the supplies that haven't burned have been subjected to 20 years of Michigan weather. To walk around this building transcends the sort of typical ruin-fetishism and "sadness" some get from a beautiful abandoned building. This city's school district is so impoverished that students are not allowed to take their textbooks home to do homework, and many of its administrators are so corrupt that every few months the newspapers have a field day with their scandals, sweetheart-deals, and expensive trips made at the expense of a population of children who can no longer rely on a public education to help lift them from the cycle of violence and poverty that has made Detroit the most dangerous city in America. To walk through this ruin, more than any other, I think, is to obliquely experience the real tragedy of this city; not some sentimental tragedy of brick and plaster, but one of people:

The really sad part about this is that it is just some guy with a plan to do something with this and the adjacent building, but after 20 years I just don't think that the plan is coming together.

The building was damaged by a fire, not hard when it is full of nice flammable books, which also don't fair well when the fire is dealt with standard firefighting techniques. So little was to be reclaimed that the insurance company seems to have just totaled the building and paid off the school for the value.

It is the not fixing thing that is marking the death of Detroit. A good neighborhood will clean up trash and fix windows and the like, Detroit is not acting like a good neighborhood. New York started the idea of rebuilding right after 9/11 and while it will take a long time it is still vital and living. On the other hand Detroit is being fled. Last year, some houses were sold for just a few thousand dollars, far less then the cost of materials to build.

Detroit used to be a shining city, The Arnold of the manufacturing world. Oh, well.

from Marginal Revolution

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