Lens on Detroit: Tragic toll of bankruptcy in 35 images

Downtown Detroit
All photos by Steve Neavling

Often lost in the discussion about Detroit’s bankruptcy is the scope of the city’s troubles following six spiraling decades of job losses and residential flight. 

More than a third of the residents live below the poverty level. Police, firefighters and paramedics are too overwhelmed to handle the demand for services. And neighborhoods are deteriorating.

The reality is so bleak that creditors protested U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ planned bus tour of the city, arguing it is irrelevant.

“What the objectors really mean is that they do not want the court to come face-to-face with the human reality that is the flip side of the cold, sterile numbers,” lawyer Deborah Kovsky-Apap wrote.

This is the human reality for many.

1.

Homeless sleeping

2.

Another day_4399

3.

Detroit Urban League_679

4.

Man_2302

5.

Third Ave food line_6762

6.

Manhole cover_7568

7.

Potholes_0963

8.

Traffic lights_7562

9.

Traffic lights_7531

10.

Airport area_6728

11.

sidewalkcuts_1071

12.

Graffiti_7479

13.

Litter_5659

14.

Concord and Georgia_6692

15.

New Center_5499

16.

Memorial_5304

17.

Flooding_4316

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  • banmar

    Visitor from NJ here, so please be kind if I don’t always have the latest updates on the bankruptcy, though I have been following it closely. My question is this: for the A&E shows Parking Wars and The First 48, all of whose Detroit episodes were shot in the last few years, well-manicured blocks of middle-class neighborhoods are portrayed, not the blocks and blocks of over grown trees and weeds with abandoned houses and foundations of houses burnt to the ground. What areas did they film in to make sure the that it looks like people may have their begun the renovation and maintain the city’s trust in the Duggan administratration waver.

  • CheenaEagleGraham

    Very sad to see these pix. So, at the very base of it, what started the downhill slide? Was it shipping so many jobs offshore? That would be my first guess.

  • Progress looks white and depression obviously looks Black. Hopefully the People of detroit in this unique situation will forget about the headlines saving them and continue what they’ve done since being there…doing for themselves. However, the narrative and perception can only change with the new sword (the pen). Trust I’m in Oakland and understand the issues a bit.

  • These photos might be difficult to look at for some, but great composition and light in all. Nice work Steve.

  • stingwicki

    I’ve enjoyed reading Steve’s articles. These are great but Marian case is not without credence. I lived and worked in the city for ten years. Not downtown, in the neighborhoods. The people were hanging on especially in SW Detroit. These photos tell a sad and negative and grim reality for Detroit. The schools are shot the neighborhoods are shot. Little investment in Brush Park and lower Cass Corridor. Crime statistics are staggering and capital investment virtually devoid in the neighborhoods. No amount of urban farming and reclaimed wood will save this city. Its going to take a serious miracle. Subdividing the city with annexation might help some areas balance the books.Dearborn could take a chunk. Grosse Points could take a chunk. Hamtramck could merge with Highland Park and Boston Edison for example. Detroit could de annex old Redford.

  • eijidaisuke

    I don’t think this is a result of the bankruptcy. It’s been like this for a lot longer than that.

  • katey

    What do you do about it, Marian? Or do you just sit up in Washington Township and talk smack?

  • 1Joshua

    What is rising in Detroit is, in the main, barbarism meeting vultures looting whats left. Note the EAA boss who helped organize the continuing death by a thousand cuts of the school system–running off with $3/4 million $. And replaced by another vulture-ette, on the same path. Key to Detroit, as WSUs Rich Gibson wrote two decades ago, is the s chool system. It is a hopeless ruin, never to recover.

  • bebow

    I view these scenes as the tragic toll of educational genocide, which wasn’t such a good idea.

  • Dust Buster

    wow some bleak stuff. picture #4 says a lot. but whomever took it best be careful because they didnt airbrush out the printing on the guys hat. someone best be ready for an irs audit…or something

  • Marian Pyszko

    Detroit is coming back…… ah no it’s not……

    • A.L. Cadillac

      It’s a gigantic city you f**king moron. Take a look at many of the neighborhoods, downtown, midtown, Corktown, etc., and it’s obvious there’s a resurgence. Obviously there’s decrepitude if you want to look for it, even in the good areas.

      • Roger Wade

        It’s still a toilet, and will remain so for your lifetime.

      • muckraker_steve

        There’s no way to ignore the resurgence in downtown, Midtown, Corktown and many of the neighborhoods. These photos only reflect the sad reality for many Detroiters.

        • A.L. Cadillac

          Certainly a valid statement of the hopelessness and poverty that techies moving in from San Francisco aren’t going to help when moving to midtown. But with a resurgent city, more services and revenue, jobs, opportunity and safety over the long term, it might make a positive difference in these people’s lives.

          • Marian Pyszko

            Here’s a novel idea, all the Central American illegals wanting to live in America; give them the option; Live in Detroit for 7 years and you get citizenship. How many would stay in Detroit longer than 24 hours?

          • john will

            Uh nooo. I dont want my tax dollars propping up criminals when we have enough homelessness in america .

          • Marian Pyszko

            The point is to show the world how bad Detroit is; if illegal immigrants refuse to live in Detroit then something is seriously wrong….

          • mariano

            are you racist?

          • Marian Pyszko

            No, I am a realist. If illegal immigrants wont settle in Detroit that speaks loudly of how bad the city is..

        • Marian Pyszko

          Steve, the Census proves otherwise. 10,000 net loss yearly still in population; that’s with all the “hipsters” moving in… and the white population both in absolute # and in % is still dropping…. The question remains; why Mexicans and other immigrants (legal or not) avoid Detroit? It would seem with little regulation, cheap housing, Detroit would be the ideal area for those south of the border to live. But as we see in the 2000 census, Detroit Mexicans are leaving in droves and moving downriver, primarily to Lincoln Park.

          • muckraker_steve

            Marian, take a closer look at those Census numbers. There are areas of Detroit that certainly are growing and improving. Most of the population loss is coming in neighborhoods that are already decimated.

          • john will

            Illegals avoid it because the only job left is scrapping

        • john will

          Another fool with rose colored glasses.

      • Marian Pyszko

        Yes, Detroit is a huge toilet…..blight in every neighborhood. Resurgence? I guess if you count nearly 50% illiteracy and growing.

        • A.L. Cadillac

          Get a life, you pathetic ignorant troll. You and dustbuster should get together and torture animals. Loser

          • Marian Pyszko

            Instead of name calling, demand real change for Detroit. When a city has lost over 1.2 million people it’s time for Plan B. Detroit needs people able and willing to learn. A city that is the nations concentration of mentally ill, poor and violent sociopaths has no future. Better to flood the city with hundred of thousands of immigrants at one time to improve the situation.

          • Gary

            All this talk of “resurgence” is a bit silly. Downtown, Midtown, and some of the those other neighborhoods are still messed up. Poor schools, lack of properly functioning city services. Because a few buildings are getting fixed up and a few business have relocated from the suburbs, that’s called “resurgence”?

          • Dust Buster

            think of it like when a really really obese girl loses 9 pounds and tells everyone at work. they cant see it and neither can anyone else but everyone still has to pat her on the back and lie so they dont hurt her feelings

          • Gary

            I like that

          • john will

            Oh but you see this is all whiteys fault. Not the black government, not the
            Ibturds and their pet gimme dats with their hands out. Not the unions nor the racist negroes that drove out those evil white racists with daily muggings,beatings, murders etc. It all be whiteys fault

          • Dust Buster

            i love animals. i donate often to shelters. in fact it would hurt me more to see a dead chipmunk on the side of the road than it would to see you choking on the red rubber ball your partner left in your mouth

          • john will

            I see you dont like the truth. I know. I know it hurts but there is no need to lash out like a defeated petulant child that wet their pants.

        • Does all of that bullshit falling out of your trap leave a bad aftertaste? Or is this just another example of “everyone likes their own brand.”

          • Marian Pyszko

            Devon…. 1.2 million people have left Detroit for good… 10,000 people are still leaving Detroit every year… and the illiteracy rate continues to climb… how is this positive?

          • Matthew Kaufman

            According to Disquss history, Marian spends all of his or her time ripping on Detroit. Literally, it looks like an obsession. I’ve learned long ago that you cannot educate those who do not wish to learn and you can’t solve world peace through a message board. I think we should all take this opportunity to realize that real change can be made in whatever capacity you find most important. For me, that means promoting my home one person at a time and recognizing that anyone who can never see the dawn coming in the middle of the night must live their life in blindness.

          • john will

            Its not ripping detroilet. Its trying to get fools like you to stop lying to naive people and getting them to move there only to throw their lives and the lives of their family in danger and losing all their money trying to get the hell out. What you are is worse than evil. Your ilk deliberately lie to people and place them in harm.
            Detroit has had its day and until the negro and libtard government is taken completely out of power it will never come back. Ever.

          • Matthew Kaufman

            You know the Mayor of Detroit is White and used to be CEO of a for-profit multi-billion dollar enterprise right? That’s about as Republican or moderate of a choice as can be made in any major city election. I love ignorant people, you make me laugh.

      • john will

        I abhor stupidity. There is no resurgence. Money thrown at a problem does not improvement make. Ask your dumbass president how thats working out. Hey i know, maybe he can ship a million or so illegals into detroit to take the last few jobs left.

        • Matthew Kaufman

          Not to get too personal, but I do empathize with you because those of us who have jobs that an “illegal” can’t steal don’t have the perspective of someone who works for minimum wage. Honestly, I don’t think Detroit is a destination for any illegals coming in because it’s so far from their friends and families and people do not hire day labor as much here. But, if you’re looking for a scapegoat, so be it. Remember, Hitler used the same rhetoric that your leaders are using right now.