Not long ago, neighborhoods such as the South Bronx, South Central Los Angeles, and Boston's Roxbury were crime-ridden wastelands of vacant lots and burned-out buildings, notorious symbols of urban decay. In House by House, Block by Block, Alexander von Hoffman tells the remarkable stories of how local activists and community groups helped turn these areas around.
For sixty years, federal policy has attempted with little success to solve the problems of housing and poverty in America's inner cities. Yet increasingly, local organizations are picking up where Washington has left off. In a series of dramatic and colorful narratives, von Hoffman shows how these groups are revitalizing once desperate neighborhoods in five major cities: New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The unlikely heroes include: the tough-talking Bronx priest who made apartment buildings for low-income people glisten in the midst of ruins and despair; the "crazy white man" who scrambled to save Chicago's historic Black Metropolis from the wrecking ball; the Boston cops who built a task force that put the brakes on youth gangs. Thanks to locally-based, bootstrap efforts like these, in inner-city neighborhoods across the country, crime rates are falling, real estate values are rising, and businesses are returning. Von Hoffman also shows that grass-roots work can't do it alone: successful revitalization needs the support of local government and access to business and foundation capital.
Based on years of research and more than a hundred interviews, this book is the first systematic account of the dramatic urban revival now going on in the United States. House by House, Block by Block will be a must-read for anyone who cares about the fate of America's cities.
"Contains eternal truths for reformers in any major American city."--The Baltimore Sun
"Deserves to be read by everyone concerned with the fate of America's cities."--Publishers Weekly
"The chapter on New York is superb: I was there, and the revitalization occurred just as von Hoffman describes."--Edward I. Koch, former mayor of New York City
"Von Hoffman's lucid narrative, with its colorful activists, Machiavellian politicians and inspiring struggles, brings this potentially mind-numbing subject to life. This book deserves to be read by everyone concerned with the fate of America's cities."--Publishers Weekly
"An upbeat book about the contemporary state of inner cities in the United States sounds like an oxymoron. But Alexander von Hoffman has written such a book. It is persuasive and educational as well as counterintuitive.... Von Hoffman's narrative contains eternal truths for reformers in any major American city. With von Hoffman's proof that individuals can make a significant difference, he promotes realistic hope."--The Baltimore Sun
"It all started on Charlotte Street in the Bronx. Presidents Carter and Reagan stood on that street and both compared the area to bombed-out London and Berlin. House by House, Block by Block recounts how New York City rebuilt the South Bronx and large parts of Brooklyn and Harlem, and how other cities have transformed their own troubled neighborhoods. I marveled at the accuracy and intimacy of the reporting. The chapter on New York is superb: I was
there, and the revitalization occurred just as von Hoffman describes."--Edward I. Koch, former mayor of New York City
"This is the most hopeful book on the American inner city to appear in decades. Von Hoffman's surprising optimism rests on an impressive base of new research and data. But most importantly, he has gone beyond theories and statistics to the neighborhoods themselves to tell the dramatic story of how an unexpected coalition of community activists, foundations, planners, politicians, and business leaders have defied immense difficulties to begin rebuilding
America's inner cities 'house by house, block by block'." --Robert Fishman, author of Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia, and Professor of History, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning,
University of Michigan
"This book arrives at the perfect time, just as faith in the American city is being renewed and governments and foundations are trumpeting the rebirth of the metropolis. Von Hoffman's research reminds us of a valuable lesson: it is the tireless work of those unsung heroes at the grassroots--residents, community builders, block club leaders and the like--who will ultimately determine whether our policies and prescriptions work or fail. House by House, Block
by Block is required reading, for both participants in and observers of the revitalizing of the American city."--Sudhir Venkatesh, author of American Project: the Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto, and
Associate Professor of Sociology, Columbia University