Sunday, July 10, 2005

Can Memphis Take Inspiration from New York City?

Yesterday, I took a walk around the core of downtown, the part of downtown most visitors see. Walking up and down Union, Monroe and Madison between Front and Third, I saw very few people on the street, new (and old) vacancies, and a disregard for the public realm that is beyond belief. MATA's trolley extension has left Main Street an abomination, and the new sidewalks are, in at least one case, too narrow to walk on.

As I headed home, I thought about the Memphis that reflects a fading Mid-South legacy, the Memphis songmakers and writers take inspiration from is the same Memphis that makes talented, energetic people question their future here.

It anyone paying attention? Does anyone care? Could someone please get a sense of urgency?

One thing that gives me hope is the conversation I had Friday with Fred Siegel, author of the terrific new book on former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, "Prince of the City." He reminded me that in 1992, New York was considered ungovernable. Even three-quarters of then-Mayor David Dinkins' supporters believed New York would get worse over the long term. Then along comes Rudy Guiliani.

Thirteen years -- from 1992 till now -- is a blink of an eye in the life of a city. So any city can be turned around. Including this one.

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