David J. Barron & Gerald E. Frug, After 9/11: Cities, 34 Urb. Law. 583 (2002).
Abstract: Do the horrifying terrorist attacks of September 11 signal a new era of anti-urbanism? The question might, on first inspection, seem absurd. Cities have been bombed before and survived. They have been leveled and conquered and they have endured. Cities have even thrived in the wake of the devastation wrought upon them. The reasons that cities grow or shrink, in the end, are simply too variegated to be traced to a single casual factor. Thus, we would not be inclined to take seriously the question whether September 11 will mark the beginning of a decline in the fortunes of urban spaces had so many people in positions of influence not been committed to convincing us of just that proposition. These analysts have argued that the attacks—devastating one of the nation's most visible urban symbols—show that the iconic city center is no longer a viable institution of social life. The only wise course, they have suggested, is to spread out, to empty the urban core, to sprawl. At the very least, they have argued, this is inevitably the message that most people will take from the attacks. Even if prudence does not demand more far-flung development, market forces will dictate that the escape to the suburbs will proceed with a new vigor in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center. This essay situates these contentions within a broader way of thinking about urbanism. We show that the assertions about the post-September 11 world are quite similar to arguments that have long been offered to suggest the virtues (or at least the inevitability) of the pattern of sprawl that has dominated our landscape since World War II. These arguments draw upon a familiar and well-developed rhetoric that makes sprawling development seem to be the consequence of individuals making rational decisions to disperse in order to vindicate their "self-interest." In response, many have drawn upon an equally well- developed rhetoric that seeks to privilege urban spaces over suburban ones by emphasizing the ways that central cities might win in the unavoidable competition with suburbs.