Thursday, September 14, 2006

Urban Renewal?

Came across this document by G. William Domhoff on the UCSC Sociology Department's web site: Who Rules America: Who Really Ruled in Dahl's New Haven? Dahl's book was published in 1961, and seems to have captured the optimism of "urban renewal" that turned New Haven into a so-called "All-American City". Domhoff wrote his piece in September 2005, and so knows how things actually turned out: "Yale and its faculty members are islands of increasing privilege and isolation in a sea of misery," he writes. He cites a 2002 eyewitness account from the Manchester Observer, describing a tent village that had been set up on the New Haven Green following the closure of a homeless shelter. New Haven had by 2002 become the nation's 4th poorest city, the paper reported, even though it included Yale with an endowment worth $11 billion, and was situated in Connecticut, the nation's wealthiest state. According to Domhoff, Dahl had argued that Yale and the city's business elite were relatively helpless bystanders as politicians carried out the ill-fated urban renewal program. Domhoff re-analyzed the data, however, and found that Yale had tremendous influence. This was due, in no small part, to Prescott Bush's having been at the same time a trustee of the university and a member of the Senate Urban Renewal committee. Domhoff describes various ways in which Yale, along with local business interests, determined the course (and eventual failure) of the city's attempt at self-renewal. Fortunately, there are a few bright spots on the horizon. Certain parts of downtown (i.e., Ninth Square, Broadway, Chapel St.) have indeed bounced back. Let's hope this latest burst of renewal reaches beyond Yale's backyard and brings with it lasting employment and prosperity.

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