Urban renewal

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/03/01/urban-renewal/

March 1,

In an address to Congress on Jan. 30, 1962, President John F. Kennedy stated that “we will neglect our cities at our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.” Kennedy not only recognized the importance of urban development to the prosperity of the nation, but emphasized the urgency of enabling “the sound growth of our communities.” To Kennedy, that meant “orderly and planned expansion, not explosion and sprawl.”

Kennedy’s hometown of Boston, like many cities, has had its share of ups and downs since the 1960s. Yet, this city has managed to cast a spell over many natives and visitors alike and continues to hold a special mystique nationwide. Most Bostonians love their city for what it was, for what it is, and for what it can be. This city was built on hope, and hopeful anticipation of the future continues to create drive its inhabitants. The NewBostonPost’s focus this month is urban renewal and what that means to a city as historic and forward-looking as Boston.

John F. Kennedy was, of course, talking about increased federal oversight when calling for the creation of a Department of Urban Affairs and Housing (created by Lyndon Johnson as the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965). At the NewBostonPost we recognize the importance of responsible and efficient government oversight in managing basic urban infrastructure (T, anyone?). At the same time, however, we are mindful that government planners, in their eagerness to manage urban development, too often neglect local concerns and community life.

When it comes to improving our urban environment and communities, we seek to emphasize the importance of private initiative and the American entrepreneurial spirit. Competition is good, not the least when it comes to the development of sound urban infrastructure, the attraction of social capital, and an edge on education.

Boston has proven to have an exceptional ability to bounce back after major economic shifts and declines. Looking forward, we see both the need for continuous innovation and the need to preserve our history and our heritage. We will address the problems that our city faces (why did so many people feel overwhelmed by the Olympic bid, again?) and its great potential.

For understanding cities and the factors that drive their development, we must look at different aspects of urban life. Boston offers great examples of local innovation, of economic decline and re-invention, of cultural excellence and urban failures. It offers examples of how a city can be better for the environment than any suburb, of real estate prices that frustrate many a newcomer, of education that drives development, of culture that thrives in urban settings, and of governmental failure and public policy success. We might not be able to cover all that is relevant to urban renewal, but we hope to offer you a glimpse of what it might mean to Boston and other New England cities.

We will ask, if Boston is, indeed, taking advantage of its varied potential. We will also look at other cities in New England to ascertain what it is that made some cities fall and others thrive. We will look at the failure of some government programs and the success of others. In addition, we will look at the contributions of our cities’ inhabitants and human collaboration, which make Boston, and other urban areas, thrive. Like Sicinius, in Shakespeare’s tragedy Corolianus, we ask, “What is the city but the people?”