The Public Interest

The Zone of Destruction

Nathan Glazer

Fall 1981

THIS is little book, the first, I believe, on the spreading destruction of New York Citys housing, has received little or no attention, which is a more serious indictment of New York City’s ability to govern itself than its inability to keep the streets clean, to combat crime, or to keep the subway going. As against these afflictions of New York City, there is, Peter Salins argues, a solution in the case of housing destruction. The destruction of the housing in which the middle classes of the city were raised-not the slums of New York, but its solid middle-class housing-through disinvestment, abandonment, vandalism, and arson can be dealt with through policy, if it is understood. Admittedly there is a more immediate crisis every day for the mayor, the City Council, the party leaders, and the editorial writers as they face the spreading swathe of devastation that has no equal anywhere in the world, devastation which shocks every foreign observer and seems to have numbed every analyst. But I now have something to put in the hands of these foreign observers of our domestic scene when they ask me to explain the devastation: Peter Salinss book. I still have no answer to the further question: “And why was nothing done about it?”

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