AMERICAN SURVIVORS: Cities and Other Scenes by Karen Gerard

AMERICAN SURVIVORS: Cities and Other Scenes

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Economist Gerard, a former urban affairs specialist for New York's Chase Manhattan Bank and Deputy Mayor for Economic Policy and Development, has come up with 20 questions that, in mary cases, she's especially qualified to answer. Starting at the top of the heap: ""Can a Mayor Create Jobs for a City?"" Only when ""conditions are ripe,"" and only ""at the margins""--as for instance in obtaining ""a federal commitment to homeport the renovated Iowa and its companion fleet at Staten Island"" (by congressional lobbying and dispelling the impression of New York as inhospitable). ""How Do Companies Decide Where to Locate?"" Drawing on her Chase customer-studies and official NYC endeavors, Gerard traces trends from the late 1960s to the present, pinpoints multiple factors (space requirements, costs, commuting problems, personnel considerations, internal segmentation), decides that ""predictable incentives"" are better government policy than spot-""goodies,"" and pronounces decisions unpredictable: companies can and do locate ""where-ever executives want to be."" A surprise winner is ""Whatever Happened to Corporate Responsibility?"" At Rockefeller-run Chase, Gerard saw late-'60s experimentation become history by the late '70s--because the bank hadn't the resources to maintain meaningful programs, and couldn't justify them when profits shrank. ""Why Can't Economists Say 'I Don't Know'?"" Another standout, thanks to Gerard's combination of Rockefeller Bros. and Koch experience: how her ""invented number"" (the ratio of private to public housing investment) became social gospel; how ""soft data"" and demands-for-guidance produce shaky recommendations. On other matters, Gerard's views are solidly argued: she'd get rid of graffiti (""anarchy,"" not art) by immediate removal, and terminate rent control (cause of aberrant behavior, as well as housing distortions) in vacated apartments. She's insightful on the explosion of lawyers and MBAs, provocative on gentrification and historic preservation. Gerard does typify a certain professionalist pragmatism--but she's not unimaginative or uninteresting. And on urban-development issues, she does know her stuff.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich