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Why are Neighborhood Nodes Dying?

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This, from the Antiplanner, seems relevant to wondering what
happened to thriving neighborhood nodes in the 60s and 70s and to today's potential for niche districts (kitsch/arts/whatever):

In any case, the differences are real and they were closely observed by Herbert Gans when researching his great books, The Urban Villagers and The Levittowners. Gans lived for a year in a dense, working-class neighborhood in Boston and then for a year in a new Levitt-built suburb in New Jersey.

Gans put his observations to work in his brilliant review of Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities (published in Books in Review in 1961 and not available on line). Jacobs claimed that streets in dense areas like her Greenwich Village were “vibrant” because of the design of those neighborhoods. Gans, however, disagreed.

“The street life of these areas stems not so much from their physical characteristics as from the working-class structure of their inhabitants,” wrote Gans. “In this culture, the home is reserved for the family, so that much social life takes place outdoors. Also, children are not kept indoors as frequently as in the middle class, and since they are less closely supervised in their play, they too wind up in the streets.” These “vibrant streets” may attract “intellectuals, artists, and bohemian types” like Jane Jacobs, noted Gans, while other middle-class families may visit them as tourists.

But if members of the middle class liked to visit such neighborhoods, most did not want to live in them. “In middle-class neighborhoods, there is no street life, for all social activities take place inside the home, children play less often on the sidewalks, and the street is used only for transportation. Such neighborhoods look dull, notably to the visitor, and therefore they may seem to be less vital than their ethnic and bohemian counterparts. But visibility is not the only measure of vitality, and areas that are uninteresting to the visitor may be quite vital to the people who live in them.”

Gans expressed the fear that Jacobs’ book would lead planners to try to remake all cities into her urban villages, which is exactly what is now happening. “In proposing that cities be planned to stimulate an abundant street life, Mrs. Jacobs not only overestimates the power of planning in shaping behavior, but she in effect demands that middle-class people adopt working-class styles of family life, child rearing, and sociability,” continued Gans. “But middle-class people, especially those raising children, do not want working-class — or even bohemian — neighborhoods.”

Of course, even as Gans was writing, working-class families were rapidly moving to middle-class suburbs. According to planning historian Peter Hall, the resulting clash of cultures is at least partly responsible for the antisprawl movement.