Friday, August 13, 2010

The End of Social Mixing?

Bernard Girard offers some astute observations on the absence of social mixing in France (but applicable to other countries as well).

1 comment:

Mary Campbell Gallagher said...

Like Bernard Girard, I profoundly miss the liveliness and social richness of the mixed city, whether Chicago or New York or Paris. He does not say so, but modern urban planning and the automobile are largely responsible for the decline of social mixing. The Paris that Haussmann grew up in was mixed. But he and Napoleon III were the first great modern urban planners, and destroying workers' homes had the unintended or intended consequence of banishing many workers from the center of the city. As real estate values increased, and cities searched for even greater mobility--and new sources of tax revenues--the destruction of the central, human, places where people work with their hands, les Halles, the factories, followed. And that is just Paris.

Not surprisingly, Robert Moses greatly admired Haussmann. Moses and other planners with the power to change cities and favor mobility, the automobile, and new housing, all have produced the same result. In the nineteenth and early--and even mid--twentieth centuries, New York City was a cluster of industrial villages, each one socially mixed. But what used to be Manhattan's industrial areas are now luxury neighborhoods. The factories have either closed or moved to New Jersey. Workingclass people must search for housing in the most distant suburbs. Those of us who live in the center are socially poorer as a result.