Magazine article Whole Earth

Michael Pyatok on the Demolition

Magazine article Whole Earth

Michael Pyatok on the Demolition

Article excerpt

On the one hand, high-rises work fine; there's nothing wrong with them. There are plenty of income groups--low, middle, and high--who live in high-rises without a problem. I'd say the middle- and upper-income groups have less of a problem with these structures because there are many more adults and fewer children per household. In the lower-income families, you have fewer adults and more children, so there's less supervision; and corridors, fire escapes, and elevators are like toys in playland for all these kids. Dealers can move in more easily with unsupervised kids, and before you know it, you're in trouble. So, yes, to some extent, high-rise living is not great for low-income families. Another model is needed; more ground-related walk-up housing or town homes are a better solution.

Just from the standpoint of the environment, there is an enormous amount of energy embodied in any one of those buildings--what it took to build them, what it took to procure those materials, transform them into building materials; all the human labor and energy it took to erect them. And then to throw them away.... They just become landfill. It's a tragic loss. The housing authorities around the country are being fueled by this program called "Hope Six," which HUD created to help convert a lot of the older housing projects into mixed-income communities. There are several problems with this program. One is that they started out thinking that the physical plant is as much to blame as anything else, so if you tear it down and rebuild it and redesign it, you'll get a better place. …

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