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

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

by Fred Siegel
 

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"In The Future Once Happened Here, Fred Siegel tells an incredible story about the fate of America’s most influential cities: New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Standing as metaphors for America’s urban life because of their stature as nerve centers of the nation, these three cities—once celebrated for their excitement and creativity as well

Overview

"In The Future Once Happened Here, Fred Siegel tells an incredible story about the fate of America’s most influential cities: New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Standing as metaphors for America’s urban life because of their stature as nerve centers of the nation, these three cities—once celebrated for their excitement and creativity as well as their ability to incorporate immigrants and solve the nation’s problems—were all caught up in the social policies born in the ’60s and ’70s and, as a consequence, faltered badly in dealing with the politics of race and the quality of their residents’ lives in the ’80s and ’90s.

Each of Siegel’s three urban portraits shows the desperate remedies undertaken by cities searching for a lifeline back to the future whose promise they once seemed to embody. In a narrative that acknowledges the large historical forces that have remade the face of America over the last three decades, but insists that social policies are not merely foregone conclusions waiting to happen, Siegel holds up a mirror to our urban naure and tells us much about the way we live now."

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594035555
Publisher:
Encounter Books
Publication date:
02/01/2000
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
308
File size:
404 KB

Meet the Author

Fred Siegel, the author of URBAN SOCIETY and FALL FROM

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