I frequently note here that a key feature of the official New York mentality is the refusal to get out in the City and look around to observe the consequences of the progressive policies that are so universally accepted. Those who the progressive policies are supposed to help instead find themselves sapped of their spirit and trapped in a life of government-supported poverty. In Manhattan, housing projects that are warehouses for the permanent poor exist right adjacent to some of the most expensive apartments in the country; yet somehow progressives can't or won't see them.
At least here in New York the long-term post-war decline got turned around during 20 years of Republican mayors (1994-2013), and we have almost entirely put behind us the days of rampant arson and endless vacant lots. Today, they are even building new private market-rate apartments in the South Bronx! But the same cannot be said for many of the "basket case" cities that have lived with fifty or even eighty years of continuous progressive government and expanding handouts. Such cities include paragons of flyover country, like Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis; but no self-respecting New Yorker would ever go to one of those places to observe it. Then there are some cities that seem at first blush to have their act together, particularly if you just go to the downtown tourist districts; but if you then look around even a little you find that some third or even half of the city is crumbling and/or vacant. Fairly speaking, these cities are also basket cases. Chicago and Philadelphia come to mind.
One of my sisters lives in Philadelphia. Her neighborhood is a part of Center City just off the main drag and between City Hall and Independence Hall. The area couldn't be more charming. There are many historic houses (hers was built in 1834), and plenty of chic stores, cafes, and art galleries. But to get there you take the Amtrak train through North Philadelphia. You will go through a vast swath of that district, far larger than Center City, that looks like Dresden after the blitz. Endless abandoned homes and factories, remaining homes crumbling and looking like they're about to fall down, and enormous formerly-inhabited vacant districts.
And then there's West Philadelphia. I can't say that I've ever been there. But an enterprising blogger at a site called theburningplatform.com (I can't find his name) uses his forum to write one post after another about the disastrous state of a stretch of about a 30 blocks from 69th Street to 39th Street in West Philadelphia. He says that he has written "dozens" of articles on this subject. Here and here are a couple of recent ones.
Basically his observation is that, in this area, nobody repairs a building, and nobody starts a business. And the unionized city workforce rarely touches any of the publicly-owned infrastructure, with the result that broken water mains and moon-crater-sized potholes are endemic.
I’ve now been navigating the crumbling ghetto of West Philly for the last ten years. I can without equivocation state I have not seen one new private business open its doors on Chestnut Street, in Mantua, or any other area I travel in West Philly during the entirety of those ten years. The existing businesses – nail and hair salons, fast food joints, bars, liquor stores, porn video outlets, smoke shops, car washes, more bars, and hysterically tax return offices (earned income tax credits) – haven’t invested a dime in keeping up their appearances. . . . It appears there is an existential shortage of paint, hammers, garbage bags, wedding rings, and employed upstanding men taking responsibility for the children they father in West Philly. There is plenty of yellow crime scene tape, as West Philly accounts for a significant portion of Philadelphia’s 280 annual murders (up 13% in 2015). Houses originally well built in the 1950s and with some upkeep would still be fine homes, are in disrepair, with collapsing porches, dilapidated gutters and roofs, crumbling sidewalks, boarded up windows, and satellite dishes on every one.
But can't the government fix things by spending some taxpayer money on "affordable housing"? Our blogger reports on a new development built in the Mantua area since 2009 with federal "stimulus" funds:
And then there is the ongoing saga of the Section 8 gated estate called Mantua Square, a $28 million, 101 townhouse, 8 store front testimonial to Keynesian idiocy that sits in the middle of an Obama Keystone Zone. . . . Mantua Square was one of Obama’s shovel ready projects funded by his $800 billion porkulus package in 2009. Every dime came from taxpayers. It was touted as a game changer for Mantua. We were told businesses would open in the 8 pre-built retail spaces and other businesses would follow. A glorious revitalization would materialize due to brilliant government apparatchiks spending your money. It is now 5 years later and not one storefront is occupied by a single business. Not one black entrepreneur has used their Philadelphia public school education to create a viable business and the jobs that would follow.
Could it be that people maintained in a lifetime of semi-comfortable poverty by government handouts just don't fix up buildings or start businesses? What is the alternative explanation?
After sixty and more years of this, West Philadelphia sinks ever deeper into disrepair and despair. Is it perhaps time to try something different? Our blogger gives a figure of 98% of voters in this area who voted for Obama in 2012. Could it really be that high? Here's a write-up from philly.com from immediately after the 2012 election that appears to support this statistic. Excerpt:
Take North Philadelphia's 28th Ward, third division, bounded by York, 24th, and 28th Streets and Susquehanna Avenue. . . . In the entire 28th Ward, Romney received only 34 votes to Obama's 5,920.
That's about in line with the 98% figure. The philly.com reporters take a series of wards and divisions and try to track down the handful of people reported to be registered as Republicans. One after another, when the people are found, they claim there must be some mistake. We don't have any Republicans around here!
Here in New York, many of our formerly bad neighborhood are in the midst of a rejuvenation. But is the rejuvenation the result of new efforts by the existing population, or does it stem from new residents moving in? I'd like to think that at least some of it can be credited to the existing population; but I can't find much evidence of that. If anyone could point me to some such evidence, I will appreciate it.