Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Fragile Victories

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Fragile Victories

Article excerpt

In the early 1980s the producers of the made-for-TV movie The Day After needed a neighborhood suitable for filming scenes of the aftermath of a nuclear attack. No problem. They filmed at the intersection of Linwood and Prospect boulevards in Kansas City, Mo.

Over the past several decades, few things have been easier than locating inner-city neighborhoods that had literally been reduced to rubble, destroyed as if by bombing.

The South Bronx in the mid-1970s was such a nightmare of destruction that it shocked the entire nation. Airline passengers flying over the Bronx on the approach to La Guardia Airport could look out the windows and watch the fires rage. An incredible 40,000 arson fires were set in a four-year period.

As spectacular fires blazed just blocks from Yankee Stadium during the 1977 World Series, Howard Cosell told a national television audience, "There it is again, ladies and gentlemen. The Bronx is burning."

That was then. In their new book, Comeback Cities, Paul Grogan and Tony Proscio describe some of the remarkable, even miraculous improvements that have occurred in previously devastated neighborhoods in Kansas City, New York, Chicago, Cleveland and other big cities across the country.

It's not just the downtown areas of the nation's great cities that are coming back. The ghettos, the slums, the neighborhoods that seemingly had surrendered unconditionally to rot and to fear are in the early stages of a long march back to viability.

Urban issues are among the great unmentionables in American politics and media. But some good things are happening. Grogan and Proscio open their book by saying, "The American inner city is rebounding -- not just cosmetically, but fundamentally."

Referring to the area surrounding the intersection of Linwood and Prospect in Kansas City, they write: "Now, after more than 15 years of steady effort, the (Community Development Corp.) of Kansas City has produced two major shopping centers there, built more than 300 homes, a library, and a senior center, and in all created a bustling, thriving urban crossroad remarkable only to those who remember the wasteland that came before. …

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