The death of a great American city: why does anyone still live in Detroit?
The city’s social contract was shredded long ago and everyone knows time is running out – but some Detroiters have hope
- theguardian.com, Thursday 3 April 2014 14.28 BST
Khalil Ligon couldn’t tell if the robbers were in her house. She had just returned home to find her front window smashed and a brick lying among shattered glass on the floor. Ligon, an urban planner who lives alone on Detroit’s east side, stepped out and called the police.
It wasn’t the first time Ligon’s home had been broken into, she told me. And when Detroit police officers finally arrived the next day, surveying an area marred by abandoned structures and overgrown vegetation, they asked Ligon a question she often ponders herself: why is she still in Detroit?
Ligon understands the city’s root problems better than most. She was the project manager for the Lower Eastside Action Plan (Leap), an ambitious proposal to transform vacant land in some of the city’s most blighted areas. But like so many people in the sprawling metropolis, home to the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history, she too grapples with Detroiters’ greatest dilemma…
A sign in a vacant and overgrown lot in a formerly middle-class east side neighbourhood of Detroit. Photograph: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images