Wrecked Like New York (St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Aug 27/1980/US) By Fred Blumenthal



St. Louis feels complimented that Slam Dunk Productions is filming a movie here. The city appreciates the reflected glory of visiting celebrities and the patronage the film crew brings to local businesses.

Slam Dunk's presence has an additional value. One might ask "Why St. Louis?" The answer is a left-handed compliment: St. Louis looked to Slam Dunk's professional eye like Manhattan Island after being overrun by penitentiary inmates. Midtown makes the ideal setting for Escape From New York - not even South Bronx looks as much like a devastated New York.

This estimate of St. Louis' aesthetic value demonstrates that St. Louis real estate and city planning have been handled ineptly since the construction of the old city in the 19th century. Those acres of vacant lots and boarded-buildings are like a valuable oil painting left out in the rain. Why have specimens of such architectural beauty been allowed to rot, why does the city look like Manhattan after devastation?

One answer is that business and light industry have moved into residential neighborhoods, creating a progressively less and less desirable area. Another is that city government has been disciplined to stop abandonment of real estate, and third is that the city has practically encouraged razing of buildings in the path of the late North-South Distributor Highway, including the site of some of the filming of Escape From New York.

Slam Dunk's left-handed complement can be turned to advantage. We can see it as an indication that the city should encourage more consistent planning of neighborhoods, begin developing the real estate formerly in the path of the highway, and discontinue allowing light industry to encroach on residential neighborhoods.