Reason TV’s look at urban renewal, 60 years later

posted at 2:05 pm on September 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

When the Supreme Court upheld the seizure of private property in the Kelo decision so that the city could sell it to another private owner, conservatives were rightly outraged over what they saw as an abuse of eminent domain.  Unfortunately, as some on the Right pointed out, the high court had a significant amount of precedent for Kelo — decades of it, in fact, as Reason TV demonstrates in an excellent look at the urban renewal movement.  As with Kelo, cities seized land from private owners only to hand it off to other private owners in an attempt to eliminate “slums,” thanks to a federal law that gave breathtaking new powers to government over private property:

New York City’s Manhattantown (1951) was one of the first projects authorized under urban renewal and it set the model not only for hundreds of urban renewal projects but for the next 60 years of eminent domain abuse at places such as Poletown, New London, and Atlantic Yards. The Manhattantown project destroyed six blocks on New York City’s Upper West Side, including an African-American community that dated to the turn of the century. The city sold the land for a token sum to a group of well-connected Democratic pols to build a middle-class housing development. Then came the often repeated bulldoze-and-abandon phenomenon: With little financial skin in the game, the developers let the demolished land sit vacant for years.

The community destroyed at Manhattantown was a model for the tight-knit, interconnected neighborhoods later celebrated by Jane Jacobs and other critics of top-down redevelopment. In the early 20th century, Manhattantown was briefly the center of New York’s black music scene. A startling roster of musicians, writers, and artists resided there: the composer Will Marion Cook, vaudeville star Bert Williams, opera singer Abbie Mitchell, James Weldon Johnson and his brother Rosemond, muralist Charles Alston, writer and historian Arturo Schomburg, Billie Holiday (whose mother also owned a restaurant on 99th Street), Butterfly McQueen of “Gone with the Wind” fame, and the actor Robert Earl Jones.

Designating West 99th and 98th Streets a “slum” was bitterly ironic. The community was founded when the great black real estate entrepreneur Philip Payton Jr. broke the color line on 99th Street in 1905. Payton, also credited with first bringing African Americans to Harlem, wanted to make it possible for a black man to rent an apartment, in his words, “wherever his means will permit him to live.”

This lesson doesn’t just apply to eminent domain, but to government seizures of capital in general. Instead of allowing the owner of the capital to put it to work, government uses it politically without regard to efficiency or results, usually in favor of the agendas of the politicians involved. That’s not just how we see neighborhoods get destroyed, it’s why we see a half-billion in taxpayer money getting flushed down a Solyndra john, which private investors knew better than to back. Building roads and bridges are legitimate functions of local and state governments; dictating which people should live where on private property is not.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Government is here to help…we just gotta destroy your neighborhood first and take your home.

Apologetic California on September 28, 2011 at 2:10 PM

Food for thought.

Count to 10 on September 28, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Not just Manhattantown, either. Remember Cabrini-Green in Chicago? Torn down earlier this year and will soon be the site of a new Target store.

Dirty D (Desire in New Orleans)was totally demolished too.

Del Dolemonte on September 28, 2011 at 2:16 PM

And still they vote for Democrats.

NeoKong on September 28, 2011 at 2:18 PM

The democrats took this neighborhood and culture away from the proud, black families.
Yet the black people keep voting them in.
The democrats took the fathers away from the black families.
Yet the black people keep voting them in.
The democrats keep the black people as a segment of the population that depends upon the government, closing all doors to opportunity.
Yet the black people keep voting them in.

carbon_footprint on September 28, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Instead of allowing the owner of the capital to put it to work, government uses it politically without regard to efficiency or results, usually in favor of the agendas of the politicians involved.

Hmmm.. Solyndra, LightSquared…. The more things Change the more the National Socialists and central planner’s stay the same.

Chip on September 28, 2011 at 2:19 PM

Other urban renewal disasters include Boston’s West End and Washington’s Southwest. It was breathtaking official vandalism.

levi from queens on September 28, 2011 at 2:26 PM

These people obviously don’t appreciate that their political “betters” know what’s good for them.

And what happened “in the projects” that replaced the “slums”. Oh, yeah. They’re now getting torn down as well, because they’ve become real “slums”.

Isn’t social engineering just wonderful?

GarandFan on September 28, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Not just Manhattantown, either. Remember Cabrini-Green in Chicago? Torn down earlier this year and will soon be the site of a new Target store.
Dirty D (Desire in New Orleans)was totally demolished too.
Del Dolemonte on September 28, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Where those eminent domain cases, or sales?

Count to 10 on September 28, 2011 at 2:27 PM

“Instead of allowing the owner of the capital to put it to work, government uses it politically without regard to efficiency or results, usually in favor of the agendas of the politicians involved.”

Works everytime it’s tried…

… That is why it is still being taught at Haaaavaard.

/

Seven Percent Solution on September 28, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Not just Manhattantown, either. Remember Cabrini-Green in Chicago? Torn down earlier this year and will soon be the site of a new Target store.

Dirty D (Desire in New Orleans)was totally demolished too.

Del Dolemonte on September 28, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Where those eminent domain cases, or sales?

Count to 10 on September 28, 2011 at 2:27 PM

The New Orleans Projects were created thru eminent domain. The ones that hadn’t been shut down were doomed by Katrina. That was Bush’s Fault.

Del Dolemonte on September 28, 2011 at 2:35 PM

Another very important point here.

Activities like this and similar programs and even things like land usage comprehensive plans are all addressed in the text of Agenda 21.

It is the road map that is out there for any who wish to take the time to read it.

CommentGuy on September 28, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Maybe they are starting to get it

RDE2010 on September 28, 2011 at 2:38 PM

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” – Ronald Reagan

right2bright on September 28, 2011 at 2:41 PM

A: We’ve decided that your neighborhood is blighted, and you have a poor quality of life here.

B: Does it matter that I like my life, and I love my neighbors?

A: No. My chart says that you’re in desperate poverty, and you’re too racially segregated.

B: Wow…I didn’t know that I was so unhappy. Thanks for letting me know.

A: You’re welcome. It’s what we do.

RBMN on September 28, 2011 at 2:41 PM

The democrats took this neighborhood and culture away from the proud, black families.
Yet the black people keep voting them in.
The democrats took the fathers away from the black families.
Yet the black people keep voting them in.
The democrats keep the black people as a segment of the population that depends upon the government, closing all doors to opportunity.
Yet the black people keep voting them in.

carbon_footprint on September 28, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Democrats, the party of welfare and freebies, have done a very thorough and excellent job of demonizing Conservatives, the party of work-ethic and earned success, and hoodwinking the black community for decades. Just look at how they have gone after the newly risen Tea Party with both barrels blazing lies and disingenuous fear mongering. The DNC is scared for its political life.

FlatFoot on September 28, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Ben Tre Manhattantown

pain train on September 28, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Sure, but look at what Democrat mayors have done for Cincinatti, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Detroit.

Oh, never mind.

John Deaux on September 28, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Who can forget Valerie “Slum-Lord” Jarrett ?

CHICAGO – The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can’t afford to live anywhere else.

But it’s not safe to live here.

About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale – a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.

Jeff2161 on September 28, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Democrats…

… ya gotta luv ‘um.

Seven Percent Solution on September 28, 2011 at 3:11 PM

I remember when they built Cabrini Green! We in Chicago always called it Urban Removal, because we knew what was going on. Just like this case, the Dems kicked powerless decent black people off valuable land and then gave them welfare to keep them quiet for the next generation. In so doing, they helped destroy the black family and black culture.

PattyJ on September 28, 2011 at 3:28 PM

You read material like this and you wonder, what are Black people thinking?

Mason on September 28, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Why is Kelo a new outrage? This seems the same to me.

gh on September 28, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Same mentality coming to your health care – thanks you Obama! /sarc

gwelf on September 28, 2011 at 3:59 PM

This same movement swept through Kansas in the 1960s (EVERYTHING ‘fashionable’ arrives in Kansas WAY late). We successfully fough it off in my home town of Hutchinson, but Dodge City bought into it- and immediately leveled 6 blocks across the street from Boot the Hill tourist trap. There had been all sorts of modest small businesses, etc. Older, bu not all that run down. They leveled them in something that look liked the London Blitz… and it stayed that way for 3 years.

michaelo on September 28, 2011 at 4:04 PM

You read material like this and you wonder, what are Black people thinking?

Mason on September 28, 2011 at 3:45 PM
Whatever they’ve been told to think in those run down inner city public schools.

mizflame98 on September 28, 2011 at 4:26 PM

Its the sort of thing one could make a tragic movie out of, but nobody would.

Voyager on September 28, 2011 at 4:31 PM

Democrats…

… ya gotta luv ‘um.

Seven Percent Solution on September 28, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Well, the Left will weakly try to point out that one of the biggest villains of all in urban renewal was the evil Republican Robert Moses from NYC. But he wasn’t an elected Republican politician. And he didn’t just deal with public housing.

Del Dolemonte on September 28, 2011 at 4:41 PM

The only good news is the new generation of black people like the young man who invited Morgan Freeman to the Tea Party.

You are the hope for change, young man.

PattyJ on September 28, 2011 at 4:59 PM

If the blacks were to try something different and vote for Republicans instead of being lied to and marginaliszed by Democrats, they might see that Republicans are really the ones who have their liberty – a real happiness – as priority one.

Get working, and make your life and achieve satisfaction. Ladies, stop having babies without proper daddies. That’s such a cruel thing to do to your children, and yourselves.

disa on September 28, 2011 at 5:04 PM

“Before Kelo came the 1949 Housing Act.”

The 1949 Housing Act indirectly enabled the Brooklyn Dodgers and NY Giants to go west.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chavez_Ravine

When the Supreme Court upheld the Act, LA condemned Chavez Ravine and built the Dodger Stadium. When Robert Wagner and Abe Stark refused to allow the Dodgers to build a new stadium; they were gone west. The Dodgers convinced the Giants to leave also.

Members of my family lost land that they had owned since the 1890s.

patch on September 28, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Anytime the government takes over something, it turns golden. I wonder why there is this aberration?

bayview on September 28, 2011 at 5:32 PM

There’s a lovely development in downtown Detroit called Lafayette Park (townhouses, carriage houses, apartments, parks, pedestrian paths, beautiful landscaping) designed by Mies van der Rohe back in the early 1960s. It displaced a neighborhood known as Black Bottom (refers to the soil, not the populace) and the adjacent Paradise Valley neighborhood that was the hub of black business/economic, music, and social activity in Detroit by the 1950s. Lafayette Park, intended to attract diverse residents, was built in an effort to counter middle-class flight to the suburbs. The black community relocated to public housing projects. There is some diversity in Lafayette Park today, but mostly it’s white liberals living in their little bubble, pretty as it is.

Doin’ good ain’t got no end.

cheeflo on September 28, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Public housing is evil. Worse even than handing people cash.

forest on September 28, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Ed – you continue to throw this line of thinking out with not a whisper of justification – why in the hell are roads and bridges a legitimate function of government. And before you go down the “it would be a monopoly” path, please take note of stockholder owned electrical monopolies.

In the US, an elected few own the roads and bridges – maybe that’s the real reason they are “crumbling”.

rock the casbah on September 28, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Not just Manhattantown, either. Remember Cabrini-Green in Chicago? Torn down earlier this year and will soon be the site of a new Target store.

Dirty D (Desire in New Orleans)was totally demolished too.

Del Dolemonte on September 28, 2011 at 2:16 PM

You can’t compare Cabrini-Green to 98th-99th St:

1) Cabrini is owned & run by the gov’t. The land & buildings belong to the gov’t, therefore eminent domain is not applicable.

2) Cabrini was a failed experiment in gov’t housing – it was not a neighborhood like 98-99th.

3) When it was determined that Cabrini needed to be removed, it was a cesspool of drugs, gangs and violence. It was the most dangerous neighborhood in Chicago, easily beating out Englewood (and that says something).

4) It took the Chicago Housing Authority 12+ years to find new homes for all of the Cabrini residents. They were not tossed out of their Cabrini homes on a whim as the report on 98th-99th streets suggests happened there.

mdenis39 on September 28, 2011 at 7:02 PM

How is this (destroyed buildings and displaced lives) different from the terrorist’s urban renewal of the WTC? Yes, I know there are significant differences, but in both cases someone outside of your neigborhood destroys it and you can’t stop it. So what makes the politicians better than the terrorist? They just work from inside the system.

AnotherOpinion on September 28, 2011 at 8:02 PM

And yet, how many of them still vote for the Dems who are the new “plantation” owners?

sMack on September 28, 2011 at 11:51 PM

Urban Renewal, because Planned Parenthood was not destroying Americans of African descent fast enough.

Slowburn on September 29, 2011 at 2:43 AM

Sad to think that many if not all in this video are still voting Democratic.

Bob on September 29, 2011 at 5:53 AM