Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rust Belt Chic: Urban Exploration

Urban exploration is becoming more popular and Rust Belt cities offer such opportunities in abundance. One group in the Pittsburgh region is determined to archive the postindustrial landscape: is dedicated to the photo storytelling of urban ruins through urban exploration. Based in Western Pennsylvania, strives to find new chapters of it's stories through the exciting art of urban exploration. Urban exploration, although sometimes seen as thrill seeking, has the ability to showcase the various gems that exist in modern day society. With the advancements in society and the ever changing view of the environment around us, pre-existing structures strive to stay aloft, doomed to their inevitable destruction. With the history inside dying with every demolish that takes place, the need to document its being becomes more and more of an irreplaceable commodity.

Urban exploration is part of the movement (e.g. urban homesteading) that views cities as a frontier geography. This chaotic, even anarchic, landscape is aligned with the Jane Jacobs aesthetic that holds sway with many of today's urbanists. These Jacobs devotees would appreciate much of what the Rust Belt has to offer.

The adventure upside is greatest in the regions where the economic spoils are the least. Cleveland is a good example:

Q: What was and is there still a relationship to any of the NY families (Mafia) and the Cleveland Mafia? What would their reason be to stay in this rust belt poverty stricken area?

A: The connection between the Cleveland and New York Mafia families is at least 80 years old. But it likely ended 15 to 20 years ago.

Back on Dec. 5, 1928, the police raided a mob gathering at a Cleveland hotel, nabbing assorted wiseguys, including Joseph Profaci, the boss of what we now know as the Colombo family, along with his underboss Joseph Magliocco, on minor but annoying charges.

Decades later, the former Cleveland underboss Angelo Lonardo, who testified at the historic Mafia Commission trial in 1986 and also at other trials and hearings, told of numerous dealings his family had with New York families from the 1930s through the 1980s, in particular with the Genovese family and its onetime acting boss, Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno.

According to Mr. Lonardo, in the early 1980s he traveled to New York in an effort to get Mr. Salerno to back Cleveland’s Jackie Presser as President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in an election. Since the late 1980s, though, when federal racketeering prosecutions began wiping out the last vestiges of the Cleveland family, the Genovese family has had few, if any, dealings with their few remaining counterparts in Cleveland.

Emerging in the Postindustrial Heartland is a power vacuum and any ambitious young adult looking to be a big fish in a small pond should head there.

One thing holding back these frontiers is the stubbornly entrenched political entities that serve as relics to the industrial era. The Mon Valley should be the poster child for parochial ineptitude:

Solutions? How about a Marshall Plan for deindustrialized regions, "not just for the Mon Valley, but across the country, similar to what the U.S. did in Europe after World War II, channeling resources into a multifaceted approach?" A good idea to help stem a looming recession, but given the current Wall Street bailout, prospects for a massive federal financial outlay are dimming by the week.

Opinions differ on whether a one-stop development shop is needed, or would it be another splintering distraction? Some feel it is best to have different agencies tackling various valley problems; others would prefer a more unifying force.

Maybe a summit of all the parties involved? In the turf-conscious Valley, the West-to-West Coalition is not everybody's favorite, but who better than its core of elected officials to coordinate the many worthwhile efforts under way and those yet to come?

My point is that what should be a frontier remains, for the most part, a wasteland. There are exceptions, such as Braddock, but the suffocating isolation isn't likely to end any time soon. The micro-management at the hands of these mini-kingdoms is killing the Mon Valley. Most bizarre is the continueing partronage. The big city mafia may have abandoned Cleveland, but the corruption and mistrust in these tiny municipalities lives on.

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