You Must Be This Tall To Ride In Detroit

2015-05-02T11:05:43+00:00 April 29th, 2015|

By Aaron Foley

You live in New York and you’ve seen a billboard encouraging you to move to Detroit. Or you don’t live in New York but you’ve seen a snarky New York-based blog’s hot take on a billboard encouraging New Yorkers to move to Detroit. As a Detroiter, I can say that yes, Detroit is welcome to anyone. Just leave your kids in Brooklyn, please.

Yes, Detroit will take your tired, your poor, and all the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, but not any of those crumb-snatching blobs of cellular matter you refer to as “children” that you illogically procreated. Oh, no, certainly not in the New Detroit. You see, in order for us to move forward as a city, we simply cannot have children as part of the restorative populace.

detroit sTo all the fashionable gay couples with adorable offspring in tiny Ralph Lauren sweaters, you may have to prove to a court that you are worthy of parenting, so you’d be exempt from this anyway. As for the rest of you would-be Detroiters, listen up.

A new restaurant opens every week in what was once the nation’s fattest city. It is required that beef tartare and some type of cooked cephalopod appear on each menu, and while both front- and back-of-house staffers are a diverse mix of blacks and whites and perhaps an occasional Latino, at least one bartender must have a tattoo sleeve. There are no kids’ menus.

Knowing that restaurants are the future, the city administration will allow developers to remake a historic recreation center into a restaurant. There will be housing, even low-income housing for you starving artists. But there will also be another restaurant, just two blocks away from a housing project where a woman’s ex-boyfriend shot her 8-year-old son while he slept.

[blocktext align=”right”]Whitney Houston once believed that children are the future … she clearly was not talking about Detroit.[/blocktext]There will also be a beer garden on top of the old recreation center, so no kids allowed there either. And sure, it’s incongruous that you can get drunk and get fat on calories in the place where the Brown Bomber himself kept fit, but that’s where we seem to be headed in New Detroit. Whitney Houston once believed that children are the future. Despite filling her last-ever prescription here, she clearly was not talking about Detroit. Beer, be it in garden or microbrewery form, is the future. And who needs another rec center, right?

Sure, an optimistic parent could wait for pie pushers and barbecue barons to save Detroit by ever-so-slowly rebuilding the tax base – one small plate at a time! – so that public schools could be properly funded. Maybe the infant mortality rate will drop by that time, too. But in the meantime, Detroit really is a DINK paradise.

It’s all laid out here for the aspiring Detroiter en route from New York. We already have your yoga studios and dog parks, but we’re just not sure what to do with your children. Public transportation is such that you wouldn’t want your kids riding alone on them. But hell, most adults don’t want to ride the buses here anyway. Go get yourself a bicycle from Shinola, then. (They don’t have kids’ bikes, for the record.)

keep-calm-and-move-to-detroit sWhoops, did you get pregnant? And you don’t want to give up that Mies van der Rohe condo or Merchants’ Row loft you had to bid out a zillion other Quicken employees for? You could embark on the decathlon-like challenge of enrolling your child in one of the few remaining schools – many of which are in midtown or downtown, but can you afford our rising rents and the annual costs of raising a child? Can you handle going to open houses announced online in a barely connected city, calling around to schools months ahead of time to ensure enrollment, or maybe being placed in a lottery system where you’ll compete with desperate parents from all across the city trying to avoid a neighborhood school controlled by one of two underfunded state-run districts?

Are you still absolutely insistent on bringing your children to a city where there are more vacant than functioning schools? You may have to live in a suburb. Looking for diversity with that Bushwick edge? Try Hamtramck. Looking for diversity and don’t want your car broken into? Try Berkley. Or if you want the prestige of a Manhattan private school, go to Bloomfield Hills – as long as you’re not black.

[blocktext align=”left”]…you should leave your children in New York before you come to Detroit, or avoid reproducing if you do.[/blocktext]But in general, you should leave your children in New York before you come to Detroit, or avoid reproducing if you do. Let them run wild in your brownstones and townhouses just like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2. They will be bored here; they won’t understand the difference between street art and plain ol’ graffiti, and we don’t even have a Toys R Us in the city limits to keep them entertained.

Here in Detroit, you can be as self-centered as you want, freezing yourself in the brand of early-twenties adolescence civic leaders so desperately need to market this place. And you can’t have a kid around if you just want to be a big kid yourself.

Aaron Foley writes the On Detroit column for Belt as well as authoring How To Live In Detroit Without Being A Jackass, to be published by Belt in fall 2015.

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4 Comments

  1. Brooke April 29, 2015 at 11:43 am - Reply

    I am a lifelong Detroiter, who proudly has stayed in the city. I also plan on raising my children here. I found this article to be one of the most banal things I’ve read in quite a while. I don’t think rampant sarcasm and negativity make you seem clever or informed.

  2. Downtown Dave April 29, 2015 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Take it easy brother. I appreciate some snark every now and then, but I have lived in Philly and NY and now Detroit for the last 25 years. Detroiters are experiencing this rebuilding thing in earnest now for the first time it seems. There were drips and drabs in the last 20 years, but nothing like Philly and NY have experienced. Anyone who lived in either place has been or knows someone who was mugged, witnessed a gunfight, terrible fire or worse. These things are much closer and more real when you live in a city where people of different classes live much closer to each other. I have kids and we enjoy all of the big city accoutrments that Detroit has to offer — The Science Center, the DIA, the theater district, downtown ball parks, Belle Isle, the river walk, the downtown YMCA. We like to go out an enjoy what the kids are into as well. Families of all stripes are a part of a vibrant city and as Detroit’s renaissance continues families will continue to demand and expand the family options, whether you snark about it or not. When you grow up some more, Detroit will be even more family friendly for you. For now go out an party and have fun, Detroit is a great party and sports town. I love it. And when you are ready to settle down, a bunch of families will have set it all up for you.

  3. Rachel April 30, 2015 at 11:14 am - Reply

    I completely agree that Detroit needs to be more kid-friendly, hell, more family-friendly in order to survive. I agree that there absolutely must be more educational opportunities for young people here. But it’s not a zero-sum game. More hipster-centric businesses (or even new restaurants like Kuzzo’s, which is not aimed at young white people) have really nothing to do with the abysmal school system.

    Also, I’m not sure it’s really fair to imply that people without kids in Detroit are just suffering from Peter Pan syndrome. I’m not the only young adult finding it difficult enough to pay for my just myself, with rent, car fees, insurance, and massive student loan debt to attend to. Detroit is not actually that cheap to live in, despite what cutesy New York billboards may say. It’s almost like we can’t win: have a kid you can’t afford and you’re chided for being irresponsible, don’t have a child and be accused of never wanting to grow up.

    I do want to someday have a family in Detroit, and I seriously hope that we begin to focus on improving schools and other important issues in the city, not just growing the restaurant/entertainment business sector. I think that’s actually your point in the end, but I also think it gets lost in your desire to simply deride these types of businesses and their patrons.

  4. Kelsey May 5, 2015 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Sorry you are jealous.

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