Hating on Hartford is a blood sport

west_hartford_ctSharon sent this, an incredibly well-written screed about Connecticut’s capital city, written by Freddie deBoer, a former resident of the town. The piece first ran back in 2014, at n+1, and includes:

The advantage of being a broken city is that ambitious people are always trying to fix you. It helps to be the capital. Urban renewal types are shameable that way. The science museum was designed by César Pelli and runs off of fuel cells. The convention center is a weird spaceship landed in the middle of blight. People work there. They have events. I’d rather have these places than not have them; they just don’t form anything like a coherent narrative of renewal. Occasionally you’d hear smart, committed people talking about moving to the new economy, about getting a little Palo Alto going on the riverside, always the riverside. It’s such a comprehensively deluded idea, so poignant in its essential fantasy, that contradicting it feels cruel. But why, in a hundred years, would any tech company set up shop in Hartford, Connecticut? And what difference would it make, if they aren’t paying taxes and all the workers scramble to get to the suburbs at the end of every day?

Hating on Hartford is a blood sport, and it never leads anywhere, so I was happy that Sharon sent this, as an antidote:

I have only lived in this city for just over a year, but even as a recent transplant, when the dust of this essay settled I was offended to the core by the unyielding, unending, and untrue invective that it proffers. I have no interest in reviewing, much less debating, each vilification, point by point. But I will say this: I am surprised that this city has not crumbled under the weight of an oppressive negative energy that infects it from within and without. This article is just one more block on the ever-growing Jenga pile. Never have I seen so many people revel in the perceived – and predicted! – failure of the hometown, seemingly oblivious to the fact that as they revel in those failures they are rooting against themselves. Even now, as the turmoil of the stadium project fills the daily headlines, naysayers clamor to be the first Chicken Little to proclaim the happy news that all is lost. It’s like watching The Big Short in real life with everyone betting against the team, betting against the town, plunking down their metaphorical money to short the stadium. Only in this case the people doing the shorting won’t cash in big if they are right. In fact, quite the opposite. And if they are wrong – and I fervently hope they are – they will be the ones who occupy the seats once the stadium is complete.

I don’t live in Hartford but I’ve paid attention to the city since 1986, when I moved to work there. I think people in Hartford have been disappointed so many times that they are prepared to jump off a cliff when jumping is not even necessary. I wish they’d stop. I wish they’d trust.


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    1. Yeah. Best not to associate with them, but this hating Hartford is like a cottage industry.

  1. Here’s what I wrote on that other piece:

    Hey there, I’m the author of the piece. You say in a comment above that it’s difficult to know how a written comment will be heard by the reader. Indeed: you’ve completely misunderstood and misrepresented my article. It’s not hating on Hartford. In fact, it’s an ode to the city. It’s a critique not of Hartford but of America’s system of soft segregation, the “white flight” that has economically devastated the city. Our country has a deep problem of intertwined racial and economic segregation. It’s that combination that has undermined many cities; Hartford has suffered as badly as any. That problem can’t be solved by expensive revitalization projects; it also can’t be solved through the passion of “new urbanists” like yourself. It can only be solved through confronting America’s segregation problem. That’s the point of the article.

    I’m afraid that you’ve comprehensively misread my piece, and attacked the misreading.

    1. I appreciate the clarification. When I read it, I had two reactions: 1. (as if you care about my critique and I don’t blame you for not) It is an incredibly well-written piece. I agree particularly about the space between downtown and the North End, but 2. I read it as a critical piece, but maybe I’m being too tender. I’ve lived around Hartford and worked in Hartford for decades and it feels like everyone has something nasty to say about the city.

  2. As I read both pieces and the comments here, I notice a love of Hartford alongside various forms of protectiveness of Hartford from all. I do wonder, what could be done to bring more people to that Polish woman’s restaurant (& to other small businesses in Hartford) so she could hire employees and stay open for dinner?

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