NAC Editor-at-Large Diana Lind in the New York Times

Her op-ed, “The Bright Side of Blight,” uses Philadelphia as a case study to argue that “any plan to mitigate the vacant property crisis must not only include innovative urban planning, but also try to restore employment opportunities.”

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

Yesterday, on the same day as the State of the Union address, the New York Times featured an editorial by Next American City Editor-at-Large Diana Lind. Lind, who has written extensively on architecture, the built environment and social change in cities, argued that while the impulse to clean up neighborhoods by refurbishing vacant lots and fixing failing structures is worthwhile, real change is unlikely without investment in job-creating programs.

It’s been nearly 30 years since James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling published their broken windows theory, positing that the torn social fabric that allows for vandalism also encourages other kinds of crime and disinvestment in a neighborhood. The theory validated the inclination to improve the built environment first, in the hopes that once a sense of confidence has been restored other aspects of an engaged community will follow. And in places on the cusp of gentrification or economic recovery, like certain New York areas in the ’90s, quality-of-life campaigns have been proven to clean up the streets and reduce crime.

Pointing to the troubled Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, however, as well as troubling statistics such as the fact that 60 percent of Philadelphia adults can’t read past a sixth-grade level, Lind calls for an approach that will teach job skills to locals in their own neighborhoods. She points to the Job Opportunity Investment Network, the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, and Roots to Re-Entry, all of which help the disadvantages gain skills to not only earn money but rebuild and beautify their neighborhoods.

To read the complete editorial, click here.

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Tags: philadelphiabuilt environmentblight

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 1104 other sustainers such as:

  • John in Dayton, OH at $120/Year
  • Andrea at $100/Year
  • Caryn at $120/Year

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine

has donated ! Thank you 🎉