By HOWARD KOHN
Lately the people of Novi have been getting
pretty damn mad about a scheme to disrupt the
suburbs. Not all suburbs. So far just the suburb
"Well, I cried Sunday and that didn't help,"
says Mrs. Eileen Howard.
Novi sits at the frontier fringe of the
Detroit residential ring, about 25 miles north-
east of Ann Arbor. Although now only 12,000
people sprawl over its 35 square miles of show-
horse farmland and baby subdivisions, all re-
gional studies point to Novi as the boom center
of the 1970's.
Before two months ago the biggest stink in
Novi history had come from an ex-city coun-
cilman who insisted on emptying his sewage
trucks in an open field. Now it has its first real
"Well, I just put my two little girls to bed,
in tars, with their questions unanswered be-
cause I don't know the answers," adds Mrs.
Howard. "It seems as though a group is trying
to bulldoze its way into our community and
disrupt our homes, s c h o o 1 s, and, yes, our
"My daughter cried tonight. There a r e
many questions but finally came the $64 one,
'Are we going to have to move-again?'"
Mrs. Howard and many of her friends say
they will move if their suburban sanctuary isn't
T he dreams of middle-class people w h o
have moved to Novi, seeking all that suburban
living connotes, may be violated," warns resi-
dent Larry Wind. "Novi can grow beautifully
into a dream community.
"To turn t into anything else-a ghetto
pe' -wouh be rape."
The people in all-white Novi have realized
their dreams in $35,000-$50,000 homes, big back-
yards and award-winning schools. Many have
paie heir wa' there from the city with pa-
tien nears on 4--e up-Monday-morning-and-up-
high P -Saturday-night treadmill.
But now, a corporate, union and church
grou r "alled the Metropolitan Detroit Citizens
Development Authority wants to transplant 15,-
000 blue collar workers-20 per cent of them
black-from Detroit's inner city, Pontiac and
Anr "hor, a'-d Wunk them right in the middle
of Novi's prime potential residential area. They
would live in a specially built 1000-acre "new
Integrating white suburbs with people
from the black inner-city may be the
only way to avoid a modern civil war.
community" of pre-fabricated houses and
apartments, all in the $15,000-$25,000 range.
MDCDA's board of directors reads like the
honor roll of a liberal drum and bugle corps,
starting with Walter Reuther, UAW president
who doubles as MDCDA president, and includ-
ing James Roche of General Motors, Walter
Cisler of Detroit Edison, Henry Ford II, and
a university president and a Catholic cardinal.
Originally, in 1966 when it was formed by
Reuther, MDCDA intended to deal with the
quintuplet quandaries of transportation, hous-
ing, pollution, poverty and education. After the
1967 street insurrection MDCDA decided to
tackle things one at a time, opting to go with
So far most of its work has focused on De-
troit' inner city, where it has moved poor peo-
p'e ito temporary housing, so their old slums
can be torn down and replaced. But MDCDA
h-! "ten been unable to come up with the
m"^ ^, f th- Jand for housing in time to ful-
fill its promises.
-,- 4iralv, Novi people are suspicious when
Ed Robinson, MDCDA executive director, says
he'll get federal funds so the "new community"
can help pay its own way.
With an influx of 15,000 people, between
1971 -and 1977, Novi's school system will be
flooded. Even if federal money puts in new
"Why can't they go some-
place else? There's plenty of land
down the road. We can't afford to
support people who might be on wel-
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sewer lines and erects school buildings-which
is possible but not yet certain-Novi taxpayers
know they will foot the bill for increased school
operational costs, and more policemen too.
The fact that Detroit taxpayers are cur-
rently bearing the same burden for overcrowd-
ed schools and overrun streets does not matter
to Novi. "We came to Novi to get away from
that," says Mrs. William Bryant, one of Mrs.
Howard's neighbors. -
Most federal funds will go strictly toward
housing and will come from George Rom-
Y CYY C C
ney's Department of Housing and Urban De-
velopment. Romney, former Michigan governor.
and now HUD secretary, has openly criticized
the urban housing shortage and is enthusiastic
about the "new community" plan. Romney is
apparently ready to go to bat for MDCDA, if it
measures up to HUD's criteria, and supply $20
million in low-interest loans for the $102 million
In practical terms, that means MDCDA's
private developer (who will provide the rest of
the money), can build homes of $15,000, sell
them for $15,000, and still make a profit-an
impossible feat without substantial federal sub-
"A private developer can't build a house
and sell it for $15,000 today and make any'
money. There's no such animal as a $15,000
house in private enterprise," points out Leon
Zolkower, of Kaufman & Broad Homes Inc.
Kaufman & Broad is going to plop a sub-
division in Novi for 7,000 people, almost identi-
cal to the "new community" except its houses
will sell for $31,000-and-up, and its apartments
will start at $175.
Not many factory workers can handle that
kind of mortgage. And that's the whole point,
Novi wants to build a top-drawer suburb.
And why should Novi be picked to solve
somebody's else's problems? Why not colloquial
Rochester where Reuther lives, or hot dog Dear-
born where Robinson lives, or lily-white Grosse
Pointe where Romney used to live?
"MDCDA wouldn't even consider going into
some place like- that," charges Mrs. Bryant.
"People there have influence."
Robinson replies that "we've got to start
integration somewhere and we might as well
start it in an undeveloped area."
MDCDA bases its plan on the theory that
transplanting blue-collar workers from the city
to the suburbs will achieve integration, facili-
tate urban renewal, and develop model .com-
munities all in one stroke. Instead of going
about urban renewal piecemeal-dislocating
the poor and then tearing down their homes
and trying to rebuild them over a period of
years-MDCDA can build a model develop-
ment on open land in the suburbs, move t h e
people, and then work on the inner city with
a free hand.
MDODA envisions the "new community"
an as unban planner's dream. If it did come to
admit that he is part of it. And there are Manhattanites who boast of
not having been in Brooklyn for five (or 10 or 30) years.
What has always been New York's pride-its distinctly flavored
neighborhoods, its ethnic and cultural diversity-has become its down-
fall. The upper-middle class Jews and Wasps in the West Village, the
impoverished Puerto Ricans in Hunt's Point, the Italians in Bay Ridge,
the Hasidic Jews in Williamsburgh, the Irish in various east Brooklyn
enclaves, have all locked themselves into their own life-styles and life-
interests, to the exclusion of all others. The rich pay at least lip service
to the problems of the poor, yet they consistently insult and sneer at
the great middle. And those in the two-family homes in the solidly
established, yet not nearly affluent, ethnic neighborhoods look neither
direction: the privileged, they feel, have no claim on the city (true),
and therefore should not dare to offer solutions (false). And the poor,
they say, have not even a right to the city (outrageous, but generous-
Indeed, why should the poor want it?).
It is simply this: so many millions of people living within such
close proximity of each other have forgotten that they do. The ag-
gressiveness, the insanity, the disdain, the simple unpleasantness that
has so overwhelmed New York has done so as a contagious disease. The
fear of the homeowner far out in Queens manifests itself in the form of
the vulgar self-centeredness of the cul-tchah set, or in the malicious
vamping of the dope pusher on the lower east side street corner. Each
syndrome is but a symbol for that one common denominator that makes
all New Yorkers the same, that is the logical outgrowth of the city's
aggressive nature: the hustle. If you don't have a hustle in New York,
you don't survive.
In this light, the concerned Jewish matrons of the artsy Upper West
Side devote their time to Women Strike for Peace, or to Fifth Avenue
Peace Parade Committee, not only out-of the charitable and compassion-
ate instincts they may honestly have, but because to sit idle would be
death here. The homeowner in Queens is the same: his house, his pro-
perty, may not be theatened in actuality, but he must pretend it is,
and his homeownership becomes his hustle. This gives him the incred-
ible energy of the life-force, this fighting back.
In New York, no one does anything quietly. If you have nothing to
push on the crowd, then you will not be noticed. If you are not noticed,
then you are swallowed up into a facelessness that probably only you
will recognize, and that will turn you into either a catatonic or a religious
The catatonics are obvious: the sociologists say there is no greater
economic, social, and ethnic integration than on the Bowery, where ex-
stockbrokers co-exist with perverts and junkies and less distinguished
winos in the endless continuum of time, spending years on one block,
huddled against buildings and emerging only occasionally, in order to
score a handout for the next bottle of Thunderbird. Those who don't
manage on the Bowery are picked up by the police wagon that makes its
rounds each winter morning, looking for the bodies of those who have
advanced to the most sophisticated-and safest-form of catatonia, by
freezing to death overnight.
Where, then, are the religious fanatics? They are less recognizable.
But they are the people who, after emerging from the subway, stop in the
middle of the sidewalks and actually do the unthinkable: they look
at what is going on around them. They see thousands of people-and
this can be at any corner in Midtown Manhattan-they see thousands
of people who, wonder of wonders, ARE ALL GOING SOMEWHERE. The
religious fanatic looks up at the chrome and glass office building and he
says, THERE IS ACTUALLY SOMEONE BEHIND EVERY ONE OF THE
WINDOWS, DOING SOMETHING. And then he stops to think, AND EV-
ERY ONE OF THEM DID IT YESTERDAY, AND WILL DO IT TOMOR-
And then, having marveled, he will suddenly realize that all of this
could not be happening so smoothly-yes, "smoothly" meaning less than,
say, 30 violent deaths per day-unless someone had orchestrated it all.
SOMEONE MUST BE PULLING THE STRINGS!!
I suppose that, having found religion, I should go to the country
somewhere and reflect on it. I should not need to stay near the source
to keep my religion-one need have only one heavenly visitation, and that
ought to last for life. But going to the country may recognize the religion
while ignoring the ingenious works of its gods. You can not escape the
seductive clutches of a society that is so goddamn operably insane.
So then, finally, I am caught up in my own personal hustle. My eyes
glaze over from the sting of filth in the air,my guts constrict at the sight
of the city's everyday cruelty, and I become the obedient servant of the
ineffable wonder of the monster. I have the New York religion-a religion
that is really a disease, a disease that will surely soon cripple and rot
and debilitate me until I advance to its awful climax, the brutality of full
citizenship. And that is something offered to those few newcomers
willing to forget the four things which New York lives entirely without:
civility, decency, humanity and taste.
Page Fourteen THE DAILY MAGAZINE
Sunday, April 12, 1970 Sunday, April 12, 1970
THE DAILY MAGAZINE