A biography of urban planner Ed Logue (1921-2000).
In fashion across the United States after World War II, “urban renewal” often meant razing low-income neighborhoods to build new highways and upscale housing, displacing people of color without providing adequate relocation services. Logue, a sometimes acerbic, supremely confident planner and academic, earned a reputation as a public administrator sensitive to the needs of the poor as well as the wealthy. Starting in New Haven, Logue—in tandem with the mayor, legislators, and private-sector developers—won national and then international acclaim for improving city life for a significant percentage of residents. While those being displaced sometimes complained that Logue failed to listen to their wishes and needs, Cohen (American Studies/Harvard Univ.; A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America, 2003, etc.) demonstrates that Logue did sincerely consider the relocation of low-income residents, even while appearing condescending at times. Convinced he had accomplished all he could in New Haven, he accepted the challenge of urban renewal in Boston, a city with more serious problems, both in terms of financing and regarding white residents who were pushing back against mixed-race neighborhoods. While working through the Boston obstacles, Logue received an offer from New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to implement urban renewal throughout New York state. In this deeply researched work, Cohen skillfully chronicles Logue’s rise and fall during his New York tenure, which ended in the mid-1980s. “As opportunities allowed it, [he] enjoyed being what I have described as a rebel in the belly of the establishment beast, using his powerful position to pursue his goals and, if necessary, impose his own standards and values on projects and people,” writes the author. “But over time Logue learned that this role did not always serve him well.” Though Logue’s life stands on its own, it’s inevitable that readers will compare this book to Robert Caro’s lauded Robert Moses biography, The Power Broker. While it’s not that, Cohen’s portrait is well rounded and useful for public officials and students of city planning and public works.
A robust, richly documented biography.