OUR URBAN PLANET by Ellen Switzer


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Anyone unaware that poverty, crowding, crime, and unemployment plague the world's cities will find illustration here of all these problems. They will also hear why Amsterdam endures whereas Venice has become a ""museum city,"" how Third World immigrants have ruptured London's polite police system--plus how West Berlin is withering away, the Peace People are trying to save Belfast, ""instant cities"" Ankara and Bonn strain natural resources, and planned ""new towns"" fail to meet people's needs. (They'll get less grasp of cities' attractions. Switzer's prime example is an old woman on social security who lives for the performances at Lincoln Center.) Switzer notes on several occasions that American cities, especially New York, must bear a disproportionate share of the nation's problems and must finance services that other countries' national governments pay for. She quotes Jane Jacobs on the need for small scale and shows how community pressure has curbed crime in family-oriented Chinatown and in Japan, where public attitudes and patrolmen's familiarity with their beats are joint deterrents. She quotes the Kerner report, a New York policeman, and others to the effect that poverty and unemployment are the roots of crime. Many snippets for thought, then, but beyond this subcatenous level there is no social, political, or environmental analysis; and one misses the underlying viewpoint or sense of directions, not to mention the critical sharpness, that would be expected of an adult writer on this broad subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1981
Publisher: Atheneum