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NARRATOR: Everyone wants good schools, safety, but for many the suburbs seem to be the only place to find them.

ROBERT DECRESCENZO: This is Mayberry Village. Here you have a good mix of very long time residents and very new residents, many of which of are from the City of Hartford and are again using this as the entryway into the middle class. We do have a lot of people from racial minority groups moving into neighborhoods like this because as they get another rung up the middle class ladder, theyíre looking for the same thing that everybody else is looking for which is a quiet home on a neighborhood street like this. A little larger in a kind of a rural setting with a lot of trees, sidewalks, birds and not a lot of traffic.

Iíve had a lot of people tell me they donít care who their neighbors are as long as they keep their property up and they have the same middle class values that they do. A well kept lawn, quiet, respectful of your neighbors on a quiet street and where you share the same values of your neighbors in terms of how you live your life .

NARRATOR: Although more suburban towns are experiencing a growing racial diversity, resistance to subsidized housing remains, reflecting a continued strong bias toward segregation by class.

EMMETT WALLACE (Easton Resident): It's partly values, partly attitudes. The fear that we have of those who are somewhat different. And there is a reality that we don't want to risk having a poorer education. We don't want to risk having slums in the community.

DARLENE SHARRATT (Farmington Resident): I think it would be fine to have a wide diversification if they could take care of things and have a strong work ethic and improve beyond what theyíve been given and it wouldnít bother me in the least as long as they wanted to live within the same lifestyle as everybody else. Itís the journey to get there. And if we as taxpayers give people things, thereís no journey so thereís no appreciation for what you get.

Lynn Lindengrass (Farmington Resident): I mean 20 years ago I had to work and go to school and raise a child at the same time and my husband had to work to get to the point where down the line we could get here. And I mean it would have been wonderful if somebody gave me money to buy a house. I would love it. But I wouldnít appreciate it.

NARRATOR: For some suburbanites, itís not who you are that determines whether you are welcome in a neighborhood, itís how much you earn.

ROB WERNER (Darien Resident, formerly of Hartford): I donít think that anyone sitting here would have a problem with some Black actuary who works at the Aetna living next door to Ďem. I mean or, you know 10 Black actuaries who work at the Aetna.

EVELYN Mukjian Daly (Unionville Resident): But doesnít that make it a class issue rather than a race issue.

ROB WERNER: Well, itís both. Itís both. Itís just people are more suspicious of minorities because there are these problems that people tend to associate with minorities.

ALAN GREEN (Consultant): We had been in an urban setting all of our married years prior to moving here in 1977. I donít want to live next door to someone who is not maintaining their property. But that to me doesnít have anything to do with what they make, or whether theyíre section 8 or whether they're white or black. Race matters in this country, but I would hope that as weíve grown as a society that itís not so much of a factor as it used to be. What weíre really faced with now is economic isolation. And thatís certainly going to have an impact on race because if you are a person with a darker skin in this country the opportunities are still limited.


NARRATOR: "Suburban" once described an intimate relationship with the city. Now it defines a wide -- and emotional --distance.

HERB JANICK: The suburb represents everything that the city isnít. I think thatís pretty important. I mean the city is crowded. The city is dirty. The city is unhealthy. The city is made up of different people, different races, different classes, and the suburb is the opposite to that.

MIKE SWIFT: We people almost take on an article of pride here that they will say, "I havenít been to Hartford in 20 years. I donít need to go there." And theyíre proud of saying things like that. Itís very strange to me. Itís not unusual now to hear developers, even academics say, "Maybe we need to just throw away the cities and start anew." And that attitude is out there and I think itís getting stronger.

NARRATOR: What do suburbanites think about the city?

LYNNE VALENTE (Avon Resident): I used to hear people all the time and say, "Oh, whereíd you guys move from?" Hartford. "Ohhh. Hartford!" [LAUGHS.] You know. Yeah. And I would get like militant, "Yeah, Hartford. Thatís where we moved from." You know?

EVELYN Mukjian Daly : I know plenty of people where we live that are fearful of coming into the city. It doesnít cross their mind to come in for anything. Iím just amazed.

LYNNE VALENTE: Yeah, thereís a lot of people like that.

EVELYN Mukjian Daly: I think number one is the fear factor. They hear of the violence. They see it on television. Theyíre afraid. And somehow the cultural events donít override the fear. And plus the suburbs are starting to offer a lot more that the city used to offer: shopping, restaurants, some cultural events - limited, but some

MICHAEL DALY (Unionville Resident): I couldnít imagine that there were actually people who would be neighbors of mine less than 15 minutes from the city who would go 5 years without coming in. And their only connection is the television news at 6 oíclock to the city.

NARRATOR: The exodus to the suburbs continues to put great stress on middle class neighborhoods in the stateís cities

ROB WERNER: People are surprised that there are neighborhoods like this one that look very much like a place where Wally and the Beaver grew up. Most of the people who have lived here a long time take tremendous pride in their homes and itís the kind of place where people go out on Saturday mornings and sweep the street in front of their house.

You can see thereís 4 for sale signs in a row and thereís a 5th one right back there and these are the kinds of things that make living in this neighborhood unsettling because you never know whoís going to move in and you try and keep an open mind. Most people who do move in will be no problem, but past experience has told us that some of the new neighbors will be problems and bring some of the ills traditionally associated with urban problems into the neighborhood.

Itís very difficult to talk about this without getting into generalizations which are often unfair. And you also have to deal with the racial issue. But often times what is characterized as a racial issue is in fact a cultural or social norm issue.

NARRATOR: Hartford had the greatest percentage of population decline of any major city in the nation from 1990-1994, losing 11% of its population; New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury were among the top ten population losers.

MIKE SWIFT: This remains the richest state in the union if you look at per capita income yet, we have inner city areas where in some neighborhoods if you look at census tracks which are blocks of areas about several city blocks, you have incomes which are like down to 1/2 what they are in East St. Louis, you know, some of the most depressed urban areas in the country.

JOHN BRITTAIN: And the cities have been left with the poorest of the poor and all of the municipal overburden providing for social welfare and public safety. I think that leads to ultimate social unrest in the future and causes all sorts of consequences for the state.

NARRATOR: Manufacturing jobs have historically been the first step into middle-class life for the unskilled worker. But the cities no longer provide many manufacturing jobs.

Retail employment is also a mere shadow of what it was in the glory days of the downtown department store.

Todayís unskilled urban resident has no easy way to get to the suburbs, where jobs are increasingly located.

MIKE SWIFT: Within Hartford there are something like 20,000 households in the 1990 census which did not have an automobile which is an amazing statistic. Those are people that are essentially shut out of the labor force in terms of the real growth going on in jobs out in the far suburbs.

NARRATOR: If the cities fail, will the suburbs follow?

MIKE SWIFT: Metropolitan Hartford is one economy. If property taxes in Hartford get so high that Aetna decides we canít afford it here anymore, itís unlikely that theyíre gonna relocate to Simsbury. Theyíre probably gonna go to Georgia or North Carolina, Raleigh-Durham, wherever. And that is going to going to reek havoc in the suburbs just as much in the cities, possibly even more.

JEFF DAVIS: Only if we have economically vibrant and socially vibrant cities are we going to have economically and socially vibrant economy as well as state. So even though the suburbs may set the agenda, I think it is a misplaced agenda because what we should be concerned about is the condition of our cities.

NARRATOR: The uncertainty of job security in a weakened defense- and insurance-based economy has led many suburban residents to hesitate when confronted with the risks involved in helping the cities.

MICHAEL DALY: Iím not sure why Connecticut that is in such deep economic straits for everybody has to think it should be at the forefront of this particular issue of doing something to change everything. I mean, if you have a lot of people who have flown to the suburbs and now you take away their ability to achieve that existence, maybe the people who are the CEOís of the companies that are here now might say, "Why am I here? I mean, we donít have to be here in Connecticut. Weíll go somewhere else where this doesnít exist." And I just have to ask myself why Connecticut feels it should be at the particular forefront of achieving.


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Last modified: September 03, 2012