Controversy Over Urban Redevelopment
Rising Criticism of Urban Renewal Programs
Established concepts of urban renewal are now being attacked by some of the program's long-time supporters as well as by its foes. Disillusionment has set in because more than a decade of federally supported redevelopment in major cities has failed to make the headway expected against urban blight and the social problems that blight creates and renewal is intended to relieve. Wholesale clearance of slum areas and pillar-to-post relocation of the families who lived there have generated wide discontent. Members of racial and ethnic minorities who have seen the slum buildings they occupied replaced by luxury apartment houses have grown resentful of city planning that rarely seems to make adequate provision for their needs. James Baldwin, Negro author, recently put the feeling in one short sentence: “Urban renewal means Negro removal.”
Politicians have been quick to sense the change of attitude. Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, re-elected for a third term by a reduced majority on April 2, announced that that city would abandon urban redevelopment projects involving extensive tearing down and rebuilding. Instead, he said, Chicago would direct its efforts to conservation and rehabilitation of existing structures, resorting only to spot demolition where necessary. The mayor also dropped the term “urban renewal” in favor of “community improvement.”
A New York State commission has started an investigation of public housing. Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller's top housing adviser cautioned recently that needs of city families displaced by demolition or still occupying substandard dwellings were not being met under present plans for urban renewal in New York City. James W. Gaynor, commissioner of the state's Division of Housing and Community Renewal, said on May 13 that voter resistance to increased housing expenditures made it necessary to seek new ideas and methods. The Los Angeles city council put off a decision last spring to recertify that city's urban renewal program, leaving Los Angeles temporarily ineligible for certain federal redevelopment funds and halting several projects already under way.