The Public Interest

The city as sandbox

George Sternlieb

Fall 1971

How is one to write about a Newark or a Youngstown? All the adjectives have been used up, as have all the warnings of disaster and dire happenings in the streets if “they” don’t come across, all the stories of soaring syphilis rates, _TB gone uncared for, children made vegetables by lead poisoning, rats running rampant, high infant mortality, increasing numbers of unwed mothers, schools and hospitals and garbage departments that don’t work, or won’t, etc. The cries of “wolf” have become so plentiful that we no longer listen and may even have begun to lose our fear of the beast itself. Yet there is something to be learned from a reshuffling of these dying embers of old rhetorical fires. For the Newarks of America are a foretaste of things to come, and if we want to understand the probable future that faces many of our older cities, then we will first have to get clear on what is happening—has already happened—in a place like Newark. 

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