The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America's Big Cities

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In The Future Once Happened Here, Fred Siegel tells the beguiling story of America's three most influential cities, New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. Amplified by their place as media capitals and nerve centers of American liberalism, these three cities have shaped how Americans view urban life. Big-city America, once celebrated for its ability to incorporate immigrants and other newcomers, faltered in the face of redressing three hundred years of racial oppression and the destabilizing impact of the 1960s ...
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Overview

In The Future Once Happened Here, Fred Siegel tells the beguiling story of America's three most influential cities, New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. Amplified by their place as media capitals and nerve centers of American liberalism, these three cities have shaped how Americans view urban life. Big-city America, once celebrated for its ability to incorporate immigrants and other newcomers, faltered in the face of redressing three hundred years of racial oppression and the destabilizing impact of the 1960s riots. New York, Washington, and Los Angeles were each caught in the vortex of social policies created in the '60's and '70's and each suffered the consequences. Nevertheless, these three cities tell a complex story in which decline is not a foregone conclusion.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As a resident of Brooklyn, Siegel knows his city; as an author (Urban Society) and urban policy analyst, a professor of history at Cooper Union and a key figure in the 1993 election campaign of Rudolph Giuliani, he knows his citiesand the fruit of his knowledge, personal and professional, is on display in this perceptive and lively consideration of where our cities have gone, how they got there and where they might yet go. Considering New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles as prime shapers of the "national agenda," Siegel situates the recent (i.e., past quarter century) decline in urban life squarely on the shoulders of "sixties liberalism." According to Siegel it was the liberal response to the urban riots of the early to mid-1960s, particularly to the Watts riot of 1965, that set each city on its downward course, as the violence created a "riot ideology" that found moral and practical justification in the mayhem and, in effect, rewarded it with massive government grants, a form of "riot insurance." Siegel's discussion of what happened in New York focuses on the wild expansion of welfare and the attempt to decentralize schools during the period; for Washington, he concentrates on the effects of black nationalism in power, with Marion Barry at the helm; in L.A., he sees a city spinning apart from multicultural pressures. Siegel makes his points in trim prose, rooting them not in ideology but in the facts of the matter, enlivening them with telling anecdotes. This is urban analysis undertaken with a sharp, experienced eye, and with optimism as well, as Siegel finds signs of hope, particularly in Giuliani's reinvigoration of New York, that the American city has a future not only worth predicting, but worth waiting for. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Siegel, a processor of history at Cooper Union and a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, here offers a provocative perspective on big-city politics, suggesting that a "riot ideology" of confrontation and compromise has characterized the relationships among community leaders and officials in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles since the 1960s. He argues further that officials have treated the symptoms rather than the core problems of poverty and racism. Welfare dependency, fiscal crisis, loss of community, deteriorating public space, and failures of public order have resulted. Even New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, on whose campaign Siegel worked, may not be able to overcome that legacy. The analysis will appeal to urban scholars and other followers of big city politics, although the thesis may not. A thoughtful, challenging work; for most collections.William L. Waugh, Georgia State Univ., Atlanta
Kirkus Reviews
A partisan yet sometimes penetrating analysis of urban America's decline.

Siegel (History/Cooper Union) argues that "policy wagers" made in the 1960s have wreaked havoc in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Rather than assimilating blacks into the community, guilt-ridden liberals decided that past injustices required recognition of black culture. At the same time, economic free markets were undermined and a free market in morals was promoted. The result: an ideology of "dependent individualism," political machines providing poor services at high cost, ever-expanding social-service industries that inhale revenues while politicians blame all failures on inadequate federal funding, and the charge of racism leveled against anyone favoring reform. Although racial politics are most extreme in Marion Barry's Washington and racial violence is most pronounced in Los Angeles, there is no doubt this book is really about New York. As a moderate Republican with ties to NYC's Mayor Rudolph Giuliani—described as an "immoderate centrist" with a talent for making enemies—Siegel eagerly blames the city's ills on liberals, Democrats, and exploiters of racial animosity. Siegel relies heavily on donning rose-colored glasses to view the city prior to the mid-'60s while using a racial magnifying glass to examine recent decades; there have always been problems, and a distorted perspective results from downplaying basic factors like aging infrastructure, changes in transportation, and shifts in national and international markets. Nevertheless, his analysis is not just ideological hot air. There are serious difficulties to be confronted in these cities, and Siegel exposes the systematic patterns of avoiding change favored by those in power intent on furthering their own narrow agendas.

Siegel's arguments have as many loose ends as urban America has problems, but there is no shortage of ideas to ponder.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684827476
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 9/10/1997
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.43 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
1 The Riot Ideology 1
New York
2 The New Deal City 17
3 The Ocean Hill-Brownsville Kulturkampf, or The Immigrant Option Rejected 32
4 The Welfare Explosion: A Case of Malign Intentions 46
The District of Columbia
5 SNCC in Power 65
6 The Great Society City 81
7 Marion Builds His Machine 87
8 D.C. Denouement 99
Los Angeles
9 The Capitalist Dynamo 115
10 Police Politics 123
11 The Centrifugal City 132
12 Reconquista? 145
13 Secession? 157
Back to the Future
14 The Moral Deregulation of Public Space 169
15 The Politics of Public Order 179
16 Mining for Fool's Gold: New York's Make-Work Economy 197
17 The Rudy Deal 213
18 After the Revolution 230
19 By Way of a Conclusion (to an ongoing story) 239
Acknowledgments 249
Index 251
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