Adam Gopnick in the New Yorker does a reflection on Jane Jacob’s life and ideas in her centenary year, with so many astute observations that PT will pull out a selection and run one every hour today.
Even cities that to a visitor seem to have kept the charms of pluralism within a dynamic whole capable of adapting to novelty—such as the two Portlands, in Maine and Oregon—invariably seem to their natives to have long ago lost their magic, and become subject to the same monotonic devastation. “Keep Portland Weird” (often said in the Oregon one) is an elegiac slogan. The felt civic tragedy is universal, and possibly part of the tragedy of time and change that no rule can alter.
London, Paris, New York, and Rome—whose political organizations and histories are radically unlike, and which live under regimes with decidedly different attitudes toward the state and toward enterprise—have followed an eerily similar arc during the past twenty-five years. After decades in which cities decline, the arrow turns around. The moneyed classes drive the middle classes from their neighborhoods, and then the middle classes, or their children, drive the working classes from theirs. This has been met in every case by a decline in over-all poverty, but also by a stubborn persistence of pockets of poverty, of extreme exclusion. The pattern holds for Covent Garden and Spitalfields as for SoHo and the Lower East Side, for Williamsburg as for the Ninth and Nineteenth Arrondissements. Blaming neoliberalism, as leftists do, or statist bureaucrats, as reactionaries do, is to seek, despite historical, political, and organizational differences, a one-size-fits-all villain, not an actual analysis.