'Nothing works here': Reality on the streets of a broken Motor City
After years of uncertainty, Detroit has finally filed for bankruptcy. But residents of the crippled former industrial powerhouse tell Nikhil Kumar the damage has already been done
Nikhil Kumar Author Biography
Saturday 20 July 2013
“Has anyone liked the Detroit of five years ago, of 10 years ago, of 15 years ago?” Michigan’s governor asked yesterday as the city began to come to terms with the sorry result of decades of economic decline and financial mismanagement: bankruptcy.
Rick Snyder’s question underscored a reality residents have been familiar with for years. Officially, Detroit filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday after Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager charged with overseeing its finances, failed to hammer out agreements with creditors to whom the city owes at least $18bn – and possibly up to $20bn in the long term.
While that filing was the subject of a legal dispute yesterday, the fact remains that Detroit has long been a broken city – a metropolis where buses seldom show up on time, police take an hour to respond to emergency calls and 78,000 properties lie abandoned.
About 60 years ago, nearly two million people lived in a manufacturing behemoth known as the car-making capital of the world. Everyone from Ransom Olds to the Packard brothers and, of course, Henry Ford, had come to Detroit. But today, the giant Packard plant on the city’s east side is slowly wasting away – a sad, rusting reminder of better times – and there are only two car factories within the city limits.