Saturday, March 13, 2010

Detroit Mayor Bing's Plans to Downsize the City

When the Shrinking Cities show opened at MOCAD a few years back, there was a great creative/academic series of responses to the propositions the projects posed. Last week, a larger debate was fueled by remarks made by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that acknowledges the challenges posed by shrinking population and the costs of maintaining infrastructure and services.

"We're not going in and just taking people's property and saying you don't have any say," Bing said. "Those people that we can encourage and that they would agree to be moved, those are the ones that we are going to work with first."

Last week I read this to a group of 12 year olds near Downtown. The first pause was that several of them did not know who Dave Bing was. The second pause came when they realized that the areas he was talking about are where their homes are.

Some excerpts from the article I read them from The Detroit News. on March 9:

The most viable neighborhoods, with the fewest vacant lots, are on the fringes, near the suburbs. The ones with the most abandoned houses and vacancies are closest to downtown.

"We have a downtown core and then we clearly have an outer ring," said Douglass Diggs, interim executive director of the recently formed Detroit Land Bank, a primary agency in the city's downsizing push. "The question is how do you link those two?

"Looking at the maps it seems like the real challenge is what to do with the middle part."

Some of the uses for the middle part, the neighborhoods like the former Paradise Valley, include farmland. "What?!!" asked the kids in my group. "First of all, we don't grow vegetables.

link to The Detroit News article

March 23 Mayor Bing makes his State of the City address--watch for updates,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Toothless and Incoherent

More Detroit in the Guardian (you'd think there wasn't enough urban misery happening this side of the Atlantic). This time it's a plug for Julian Temple's new documentary Requiem for Detroit of which I saw a work-in-progress version at the IDFA end of last year. What I saw then annoyed me... for a start there was an overabundance of white men talking, and the first black face on the screen was toothless and incoherent - and this is in a city where officially over 80% of the inhabitants are African American - and the rest of the film continued to designate the job of telling the story of the city to the white minority, though Tyree Gruyton gets to say something and Grace Lee Boggs put in an eloquent appearance near the end of the film. What was also interesting was the way in which - other than the Ford manager - every single white person is filmed in their cars, a kind of cinematic white exodus of the city, whereas all the African Americans were, without exception, intransient, 'left behind' - which I thought was a rather clever device but on talking to the producer after the screening I got the impression that this wasn't a deliberate (di)vision. I also found the music in the section on the riots rather disturbing - 'Dancin' in the Streets' may well have been the anthem of the rioters and would have been fine accompaniment to a bit of burning and stone throwing, but it seemed to me inappropriate to run it whilst the bloodied bodies of protesters were being carried off - came across more like Dancin' on their Graves...
The film's showing on BBC-2 tomorrow evening at 22u (Dutch time) and I'm curious to see if anything got done with my criticism of the underlying racism in the way the population was being portrayed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

FWD: Detroit wants to save itself by Shrinking

Some quotes from the AP piece, published on Yahoo News March 8 2010:

"Detroit, the very symbol of American industrial might for most of the 20th century, is drawing up a radical renewal plan that calls for turning large swaths of this now-blighted, rusted-out city back into the fields and farmland that existed before the automobile."

"Near downtown, fruit trees and vegetable farms would replace neighborhoods that are an eerie landscape of empty buildings and vacant lots. Suburban commuters heading into the city center might pass through what looks like the countryside to get there. Surviving neighborhoods in the birthplace of the auto industry would become pockets in expanses of green."

"Mayor Dave Bing, who took office last year, is expected to unveil some details in his state-of-the-city address this month."

read more here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jon Brumit in the Guardian

Article in today's Guardian with our friend Jon Brumit - all old news, but I'm surprised to hear that only one in five houses is empty, I thought it only one in five lived in...
Click here for the article.