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Feral Detroit (Nature is reclaiming the Motor City)
City Journal ^ | Autumn 2009 | Steven Malanga

Posted on 10/30/2009 1:49:22 PM PDT by AreaMan

City Journal Home.

Steven Malanga
Feral Detroit

Nature is reclaiming the Motor City.
Autumn 2009

We usually apply the word “feral,” which means “reverting to a wild state,” to domesticated animals that are abandoned and must survive on their own. But in rapidly shrinking Detroit, where tens of thousands of structures have sat empty for years, people are starting to describe houses and neighborhoods as feral—that is, as places where human activity ceased so long ago that nature has reclaimed them.

Two Detroit residents writing for the blog Sweet Juniper describe these feral houses as places that “for a few beautiful months during the summer . . . disappear behind ivy or the untended shrubs and trees planted generations ago to decorate their yards. The wood that frames the rooms gets crushed by trees. . . . The burnt lime, sand, gravel and plaster slowly erode into dust.” The bloggers’ striking photos show long-neglected houses completely enclosed in vegetation; only the outline of the architect’s design suggests something created by man buried beneath.

Feral houses are perhaps the most visible sign of Detroit’s long decline, and their troubling numbers are starting to create talk within the administration of Mayor Dave Bing, who is running for reelection in November, that the city must shrink to survive. Bing, the former National Basketball Association great who first won the mayor’s office in a special May election to replace the disgraced Kwame Kilpatrick, recalls how, during the campaign, he would travel through neighborhoods where only a house or two remained occupied on each block, where weeds had reclaimed abandoned lots, and where storefronts sat empty. Today, officials estimate, the city contains an astonishing 70,000 abandoned structures—many of them houses, but also some commercial properties. In downtown Detroit alone, a local newspaper identified 48 office buildings with “no outward sign of life.”

That’s not surprising, considering how many people have fled Detroit over the decades. Over the last half-century, the city’s population has shrunk by 50 percent, from about 1.8 million people to fewer than 900,000. Since 2000, the city has lost 35,000 residents. Detroit officials acknowledge that they see little prospect for a population turnaround soon.

Though any plan to downsize Detroit—a city where people now use only half the acreage within its boundaries—would be complicated, expensive, and time-consuming, it would let the city focus its resources, including crime-fighting and redevelopment efforts, where they could do the most good. The first phase in such a plan would involve tearing down abandoned houses and other empty structures that serve as focal points for criminal activity. But that itself is a daunting task. City officials say that it takes an average of $10,000 to demolish an abandoned house, which makes the city’s long-term tab potentially north of $700 million. This summer, Detroit used federal grants to start the task, demolishing some 226 abandoned houses in areas near neighborhood schools to reduce criminals’ opportunities to prey on schoolchildren.

Downsizing Detroit also presents political obstacles. Officials must identify neighborhoods whose city services would be withdrawn and whose residents would be relocated, a process certain to set off political fireworks. A summer series in a Detroit newspaper quoted some residents of desolate neighborhoods as welcoming such relocation efforts; others vowed to resist.

Yet doing nothing is no longer an option: the city’s economic and fiscal woes are already forcing deep cuts in services. Detroit’s board of education, for instance, resisted downsizing for years and continued until 2007 to operate a school system with a capacity for 160,000 students, even though just 115,000 students attended that year. The hemorrhaging budget finally forced the city to close some 40 schools. But the system still faces insolvency and is even considering a bankruptcy filing. Similar budget crises will require rolling back various other essential services, from police and fire to sanitation.

Though some blame Detroit’s population losses on larger economic forces, economists Edward Glaeser and Andrei Shleifer argue in a groundbreaking paper that the city’s problems are mostly self-inflicted. (The paper, called “The Curley Effect,” gets its name from legendary Boston mayor James Curley, who favored Irish residents and pushed other groups out.) After winning election in 1973, Detroit’s first black mayor, Coleman Young, consolidated his power, driving white residents, who had voted against him, out of the city by withdrawing services from their neighborhoods. Eventually, Glaeser and Shleifer write, Detroit became “an overwhelmingly black city mired in poverty and social problems”—and shrinking fast.

Steven Malanga is the senior editor of City Journal and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is the author of The New New Left.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Michigan
KEYWORDS: 0bamasfault; bluezones; business; detroit; economy; obamasfault
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This reminds me of a story from Time magazine.

An area the size of San Francisco is lying unused or vacant in Detroit

1 posted on 10/30/2009 1:49:23 PM PDT by AreaMan
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To: AreaMan
Great place for a zoo, just fence it!!!
2 posted on 10/30/2009 1:51:29 PM PDT by org.whodat (Vote: Chuck De Vore in 2012.)
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To: AreaMan

Sounds like a perfect environment for savages.


3 posted on 10/30/2009 1:52:10 PM PDT by lookout88 (.combat rescue officer's dad,)
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To: lookout88

Ouch, that one hurt. True, but you will catch hell for saying it.


4 posted on 10/30/2009 1:53:40 PM PDT by equalitybeforethelaw
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To: org.whodat
Hmm...maybe John Carpenter was on to something:

Escape From Detroit

Or a zoo....that would work.

5 posted on 10/30/2009 1:53:45 PM PDT by AreaMan
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To: AreaMan
We usually apply the word “feral,” which means “reverting to a wild state

The word also applies pretty well to some of Detroit's politicians, so it works on multiple levels.

6 posted on 10/30/2009 1:53:58 PM PDT by jpl
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To: AreaMan
"Feral Detroit"??

Prefect. LOL!!

7 posted on 10/30/2009 1:54:06 PM PDT by Landru (Forget the pebble Grasshopper, just go.)
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To: org.whodat

Coleman Young drove all the whites out and the city fell apart. Obama hates whites, but where would we go? Doesn’t matter, because he is destroying America all around us.


8 posted on 10/30/2009 1:54:43 PM PDT by Astronaut
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To: AreaMan

It lies vacant and has been trashed by the animals that think they somehow have a right to institute Sharia law and their Muslim faith on everyone else. Detroit is a dump. That’s what happens when you let unions and lefties take over and run the place


9 posted on 10/30/2009 1:55:31 PM PDT by the long march
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To: AreaMan

Fine with me if all these blue cities seceded and formed the United City States of Antiamerica.


10 posted on 10/30/2009 1:55:45 PM PDT by 668 - Neighbor of the Beast ( The only historical figure I admire in his present condition is Jesus.)
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To: AreaMan

If it was only on an island we could use it as is for the next Snake Plisken movie.


11 posted on 10/30/2009 1:57:42 PM PDT by Just another Joe (Warning: FReeping can be addictive and helpful to your mental health)
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To: AreaMan

Send them kudzu.


12 posted on 10/30/2009 1:59:38 PM PDT by Tijeras_Slim (Live jubtabulously!)
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To: AreaMan

70,000 abandoned structures and they demolished 226 this year. It will only take another 309 years to get the job done. Around 2418 everything should be good.


13 posted on 10/30/2009 1:59:47 PM PDT by Former Proud Canadian (How do I change my screen name now that we have the most conservative government in the world?)
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To: AreaMan

Click the pic for more pictures.

14 posted on 10/30/2009 2:00:11 PM PDT by facedown (Armed in the Heartland)
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To: AreaMan

It’s clear to me that Obama’s goal is to turn this once great nation into one big giant Dee-troit!


15 posted on 10/30/2009 2:02:22 PM PDT by Signalman
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To: AreaMan
The future scene from The Time Machine.
16 posted on 10/30/2009 2:02:23 PM PDT by Allegra (It doesn't matter what this tagline says...the liberals are going to call it "racist.")
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To: Allegra

The Eloi are all in the ‘burbs....


17 posted on 10/30/2009 2:03:37 PM PDT by Tijeras_Slim (Live jubtabulously!)
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To: facedown
Sorry...that site is blocked for me. The Time magazine pics are pretty bad though,

The Remains of Detroit

18 posted on 10/30/2009 2:03:44 PM PDT by AreaMan
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To: Astronaut

No, the ‘68 riots drove all the white people out. And a large portion of the black population as well. The city never recovered from the damage done that year.

I read an article a few months back that there’s a movement to bulldoze the long unused buildings and make a large park. Good idea.


19 posted on 10/30/2009 2:05:26 PM PDT by Cyber Liberty (Ram "Health Care Reform" down our throats in '09, and we'll ram it up your @ss in '10.)
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To: AreaMan
After winning election in 1973, Detroit’s first black mayor, Coleman Young, consolidated his power... "

And stealing everything he could get his hands on. Young would have made Boss Tweed blush.

20 posted on 10/30/2009 2:05:34 PM PDT by Ditto (Directions for Clean Government: If they are in, vote them out. Rinse and repeat.)
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To: Tijeras_Slim

And the Morlocks are already emerging...


21 posted on 10/30/2009 2:06:48 PM PDT by Allegra (It doesn't matter what this tagline says...the liberals are going to call it "racist.")
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To: AreaMan
After winning election in 1973, Detroit’s first black mayor, Coleman Young, consolidated his power, driving white residents, who had voted against him, out of the city by withdrawing services from their neighborhoods. Eventually, Glaeser and Shleifer write, Detroit became “an overwhelmingly black city mired in poverty and social problems”—and shrinking fast.

So Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe learned how to destroy cities and countries from Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.

22 posted on 10/30/2009 2:07:05 PM PDT by RJL
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To: facedown

Wow. Just Wow. The pictures remind me of the series on The History Channel about life after man.


23 posted on 10/30/2009 2:07:38 PM PDT by Cyber Liberty (Ram "Health Care Reform" down our throats in '09, and we'll ram it up your @ss in '10.)
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To: AreaMan

Last winter in Detroit.

24 posted on 10/30/2009 2:08:29 PM PDT by Tijeras_Slim (Live jubtabulously!)
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To: AreaMan
I wonder if Ontario would consent to absorbing Michigan?
25 posted on 10/30/2009 2:11:05 PM PDT by Gay State Conservative (Host The Beer Summit-->Win The Nobel Peace Prize!)
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To: facedown

Kinda dims the dreams of a “vine covered cottage.”


26 posted on 10/30/2009 2:11:17 PM PDT by FreePaul
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To: the long march

Even the union workers have long since left the city of Detroit. Pretty much all that are left are welfare recipients and the criminals who prey on them.


27 posted on 10/30/2009 2:12:05 PM PDT by MediaMole
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To: Cyber Liberty

Sad to say, the riots in ‘67 persuaded huge numbers of people to leave. White residents left in big numbers, and so did big numbers of black residents. Decent black people don’t want to live in a ghetto any more than white people do.

Did they ever do the urban homesteading thing in Detroit? Some cities have had some success with those, where you can buy distressed properties for low prices, in exchange for promises to renovate and live there.

Then again, would anything work for a place where decent people just don’t want to live???????


28 posted on 10/30/2009 2:16:46 PM PDT by Dilbert San Diego
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To: the long march

re: when you let unions and lefties take over and run the place

There’s a lesson here but sadly it will go unlearned. It is patently obvious that America is following pretty much the same path as did Detroit.


29 posted on 10/30/2009 2:17:00 PM PDT by jwparkerjr (God Bless America, and wake us up while you're about it!)
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To: facedown
Some of those are quite nice and could be restored. Its too bad because even if you fixed it up you still be living in a hell hole.

I have been to Detroit and I must say that I would not walk around without a gun.

30 posted on 10/30/2009 2:17:21 PM PDT by usurper (Spelling or grammatical errors in this post can be attributed to the LA City School System)
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To: facedown

How sad....many in 3rd world countries would die for a place like those to fix up....is this what our grandchildren will be facing?


31 posted on 10/30/2009 2:17:38 PM PDT by goodnesswins
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To: facedown
that was an excellent link, FRiend. Very well put together.

There is a poignance to the devolution and reversion of Detroit, and I think that blogger found it.

32 posted on 10/30/2009 2:18:21 PM PDT by I Buried My Guns
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To: facedown

Thanks for that link. Amazing.


33 posted on 10/30/2009 2:19:10 PM PDT by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life :o)
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To: AreaMan

Maybe the lots could be homesteaded by urban pioneers. Or leased to people who want to grow crops or something. Of course, the powers that be would have to decide that they want enterprising self-starters living among them. Never mind.


34 posted on 10/30/2009 2:20:08 PM PDT by married21
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To: AreaMan

Relocate the people in the neighborhoods and declare the unused neighborhoods in a certain mile radius (that will now be without schools) a “sex offender friendly zone” and there will be an influx of people willing to relocate and purchase (and repair) the homes. Also there will be businesses who see a large influx of residents and will reopen stores in that area (sex offenders have to eat and buy gas too). You will have the stigma, but if there is a large population, you can’t really ‘hide’ in it either. As is it, you don’t know who you are dining next to, but odds are you would be pretty sure in that ‘zone’.

I know people of Detroit don’t want a mass influx of sex offenders, but they have to go somewhere and this is a way to keep a closer monitor on them as well as fix the ‘what do we do with this property’ issue. Also bringing in revenue to the city.

Just a thought.


35 posted on 10/30/2009 2:20:12 PM PDT by autumnraine (You can't fix stupid, but you can vote it out!)
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To: jpl

The City Counsel meetings are a sight to behold.


36 posted on 10/30/2009 2:21:11 PM PDT by Farmer Dean (Don't blame me,I voted for the American)
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To: AreaMan

Its more than just a loss of population there that is the problem.

Pittsburgh has also lost half its population during the same period, and isn’t in nearly as bad a shape.


37 posted on 10/30/2009 2:22:21 PM PDT by I_Like_Spam
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To: AreaMan

What a great city it was. Growing up there in the fifties and sixties I remember a sprawling, wealthy, huge conglomerate of a city. Hudson’s...downtown, the Olympia where we watched the Red Wings...Briggs, later called Tiger Stadium...baseball and football.

It all began to end in July, 1967 when the decision was made at the highest levels of city and state government to not protect property during the riot...excuse me, civil insurrection.

George Romney and Jerry Cavanaugh allowed the city to burn...over forty people died anyway...and tens of thousands began to move out. Heck...Sterling Heights, er...I mean Sterling Whites was just farm land until then.

By the seventies when Coleman Young became mayor...he was a black racist...it was game over. Political pay to play became the order of the day, and that never ended. Corruption remains at incredible levels...not that the justice department is much interested.

Those left now live behind bars over their windows and doors. Nine years ago the Detroit Police told me to move my elderly mother out of the city before she got hurt.

I did. She’s safe now...but misses her old neighborhood...not that it’s there anymore.

When I go back and drive through what’s left, only in daylight, I cry. I mean...I actually weep. It’s sickening.

Fifty years of Democrat leadership.


38 posted on 10/30/2009 2:22:29 PM PDT by kjo
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To: Dilbert San Diego

As anywhere else, there are small pockets of “remainders.” They should be allowed to homestead large tracts of the land to do with as they please. The place would be standing tall in a generation. The land is likely fertile, having been unplanted for a hundred years....


39 posted on 10/30/2009 2:22:32 PM PDT by Cyber Liberty (Ram "Health Care Reform" down our throats in '09, and we'll ram it up your @ss in '10.)
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To: Dilbert San Diego

Ooops...got the year wrong. I think ‘68 was Watts. The Race Riots were like one long blur to me.


40 posted on 10/30/2009 2:24:04 PM PDT by Cyber Liberty (Ram "Health Care Reform" down our throats in '09, and we'll ram it up your @ss in '10.)
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To: facedown

Excellent. Thanks for posting up that website.


41 posted on 10/30/2009 2:24:12 PM PDT by Hardastarboard (Maureen Dowd is right. I DON'T like our President's color. He's a Red.)
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To: kjo

I’m from that neck of the woods. It’s tragic.


42 posted on 10/30/2009 2:25:14 PM PDT by Cyber Liberty (Ram "Health Care Reform" down our throats in '09, and we'll ram it up your @ss in '10.)
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To: AreaMan
takes an average of $10,000 to demolish an abandoned house

One can bulldoze a house and load it in a dumpster for a few thousand dollars. It's the red tape, disposal and payoff to city officials for the job that makes it more expensive. I suppose the trees growing through some of them doesn't help either.

43 posted on 10/30/2009 2:26:57 PM PDT by paul51 (11 September 2001 - Never forget)
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To: AreaMan

My parents moved to Wisconsin in 1970 from the city. I remember the national guard jeeps mounted with machine guns roaring down Grand River Ave headed towards downtown during the riots of 67. After that my folks decided it was time to pack up and move the family.

Always will be sad that the city of my youth has disintegrated completely during my lifetime.


44 posted on 10/30/2009 2:27:05 PM PDT by milwguy
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To: AreaMan
We all know what destroyed Detroit. It's the same thing that might destroy the United States.

Liberalism is a mental disorder.
45 posted on 10/30/2009 2:27:36 PM PDT by truthguy (Good intentions are not enough!)
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To: Tijeras_Slim

I wsa going to post this picture. Detroit has become a waste land. Detroit is a metaphor to what Buttcrack Odumba is doing to America.


46 posted on 10/30/2009 2:28:10 PM PDT by MAD-AS-HELL (Hope and Change. Rhetoric embraced by the Insane - Obama, The Chump in Charge)
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To: AreaMan

This sounds like an excellent opportunity to reclaim much of the city for future development. If abandoned buildings are torn down, some inexpensive plants can be put in their place that will draw contaminants from the soil. The plants can then be harvested and the contaminants safely disposed.

Importantly, the city puts priority on clearing lands with a lot of abandoned buildings so that larger plots of land are available for future development.

Since Detroit is pretty much landlocked, this sets up a future of “inbuilding”, and a resulting economic boom when the time comes. The more of the city that is cleared, the bigger the revitalization will eventually be.


47 posted on 10/30/2009 2:28:13 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: AreaMan
Via links there: http://www.vivianmaier.blogspot.com/

"Rare as precious coral.."


48 posted on 10/30/2009 2:28:30 PM PDT by bvw
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To: MediaMole

This is exactly what would happen if total state sovereignty were to be enforced by the states.

The moochers and criminals would stay in the “blue” states while all the productive people moved to better/freer states.

And, this is exactly why the collectivist “blues” insist on implementing their policies at the federal level - so we can’t escape and vote with our feet.


49 posted on 10/30/2009 2:28:47 PM PDT by MrB (The difference between a humanist and a Satanist is that the latter knows who he's working for.)
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To: Cyber Liberty

A good dose of “he who will not work, nor shall he eat”

would fix a lot of the problems in Detroit, and in America as a whole.


50 posted on 10/30/2009 2:30:05 PM PDT by MrB (The difference between a humanist and a Satanist is that the latter knows who he's working for.)
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