Wither cities?

On Saturday I went out to dinner in one of the busier streets in Newcastle, Darby St. In a couple of hundred yards there is a cluster of perhaps a dozen casual restaurants and coffee shops. I mentioned to Sonia that the crowd lacked a diversity that you would find along a street like King St, Newtown. They all appeared to be from the same “tribe.”

Now first let me say that this is not a defacto criticism of Newcastle. You could say the same thing about Military Rd, Mosman or any number of other places in Sydney. It is one of the unique qualities of Sydney’s inner west that so many different “tribes” can mix and accept each other.

So it was a strange coincidence when just today there was an article in the Boston Globe, “Last Call” by Robert David Sullivan about the disappearance of the gay bars of Boston and what it means for city life. It is an interesting read as it bemoans the way that urban development is pushing out the fringe cultures, not just gay bars in Boston but the real New York deli and other marvelous diversities.

As I look at so called “urban development” (and there are prime examples in both Sydney and Newcastle, where the Honeysuckle precint is seen as a great urban development but to my eye it has sanitised and monotonised the industrial fringe of the CBD) all I see is the conservative, middle of the road, white middle class converting to bland more and more of what makes city life good. Of course, though, I am far from innocent myself. I may describe myself as “liberal” but in the grand scheme of things I am fairly middle of the road, white middle class myself.

Read Sullivan’s article, you might understand my fear for our cities.


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