Our blight plan is about to see the light of day

Posted: July 27, 2001

EDITOR'S NOTE: As a rule, the Daily News never shares articles before publication. However, Jeremy Nowak, the city's lead blight consultant, requested a preview of Mark Alan Hughes' much anticipated blight plan and for a chance to respond. With the writer's permission, we are bending our policy and giving his plan to the city before publication on Tuesday. Nowak's and blight czar Pat Smith's response will appear on Wednesday.

Poetically, that is also Council President Anna Verna's deadline for a detailed plan from the city.

It's finished. The blight plan is in the deft hands of editors and graphic artists at the Daily News being prepared for your consideration on Tuesday.

I'm grateful for the chance to spill so much ink on this topic. I can't help but think of this op-ed page as the world's largest urban studies seminar, where we're all equals debating ideas with the city's best interests at heart and in mind. It's one reason I'm happy to share all of my work at the city's request, even though they never responded to my written request for data (I got it elsewhere, guys).

I want to praise the many individuals and institutions that have offered help. I'd like to thank them by name, but nearly all requested anonymity and I wouldn't be doing the others a favor by naming them. No one but me is responsible for next week's plan. But it does reflect the ideas and experience of many people.

The mayor has a super opportunity here. The public, the papers, the powers-that-be are hungry for change. I've felt it myself.

Blight affects all of us: the homeowner facing incipient blight . . . the taxpayer bearing the mounting costs of collapsing buildings as fellow taxpayers flee. But those who suffer most are those whose neighborhoods have collapsed around them, who remain behind on hyper-vacancy blocks.

After decades of failed initiatives, bureaucratic turf wars and petty corruption, government has fragmented into a dozen agencies semi-involved in doing nothing much about blight. But the solution is not, as some have suggested, just getting government out and markets in. Our challenge is to fix a government that swings between malign and benign neglect.

We can do that.

Tuesday, we will show how. *

Mark Alan Hughes is a senior fellow at Penn's Robert A. Fox Leadership Program and a weekly contributor to the Daily Views. Contact him and view past articles at www.mahughes.org

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