There was one line that caught my attention in Nicolai Ouroussoff's NYTimes piece on reinventing America's urban landscape.
The line? "We long for a bold urban vision." Too bad our city's leaders aren't yearning with us.
Ouroussoff argues that the time is now to not only restore, but to renew and reinvent, America's cities. He smartly notes that what is required is no more ambitious or absurd than the Work Projects Administration of the 1930s or Eisenhower's 1956 mandate for a national highway system. He points to New Orleans, Los Angeles, The Bronx and Buffalo as examples to study.
Given that the administration has already made sustainability a priority, that money could be redirected to other projects, like efforts that reinforce density rather than encourage urban sprawl. It could be used to replace crumbling expressways with the kind of local roads and parks that bind communities together rather than tear them apart.
I am also a fan of a National Infrastructure Bank, an idea that was first proposed by the financiers Felix Rohatyn and Everett Ehrlich.
The bank would function something like a domestic World Bank, financing large-scale undertakings like subways, airports and harbor improvements. Presumably it would be able to funnel money into the more sustainable, forward-looking projects. It could also establish a review process similar to the one created by the government’s General Services Administration in the mid-1990s, which attracted some of the country’s best talents to design federal courthouses and office buildings. Lavishing similar attention on bridges, pump stations, trains, public housing and schools would not only be a significant step in rebuilding a sense of civic pride; it would also prove that our society values the public infrastructure that binds us together as much as it values, say, sheltering the rich.
A half-century ago American engineering was the envy of the rest of the world. Cities like New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans were considered models for a brilliant new future. Europe, with its suffocating traditions and historical baggage, was dismissed as a decadent, aging culture.It is no small paradox that many people in the world now see us in similar terms.