Graffiti: art or vandalism? For some there’s an absolute answer to that question, but for most there’s room for debate. In New York City, police chief Bill Bratton calls graffiti “the first sign of urban decay,” while work from Banksy (and sometimes lesser-known street artists) fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at New York auctions.
Detroit became the latest city to grapple with this question in an official capacity, with city council members previewing ordinances designed to cut back on blight that have brought a somewhat philosophical question into sharp legal focus: How do you distinguish between blight and art in a city renowned (or reviled) for both?
[Editor’s Note: The following comment was left on archpaper.com in response to the editorial “Motoring Toward Destruction?” (AN 08_06.05.2014), which parsed the wisdom of Detroit’s blight removal program.Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ]
I’m failing to find a thesis in here, other than wholesale demolition = bad, which is something we’re well aware of. Other considerations that weren’t even mentioned in this are aspects of public safety (arson and the use of dilapidated structures in which to commit crimes, peddle drugs, etc.) and the question of revenue (clearing blighted structures for redevelopment). The article even mentions that of the 80,000 blighted structures, we’re attempting to save more than half.
Chicago Magazine’s Elly Fishman has an interesting story on Lands’ End founder Gary Comer’s efforts to save his old neighborhood. Pocket Town, a portion of Greater Grand Crossing on the Far South Side, suffered a 25 percent unemployment rate and longstanding poverty when septuagenarian Gary Comer popped into his alma mater Paul Revere Elementary School. Shortly after he began writing checks to the principal for improvements to the aging red brick building. That philanthropy snowballed into millions of dollars each year for Revere and the neighborhood. In 2010, Gary Comer College Prep moved into a John Ronan-designed school that has garnered praise from the design community.