New York City is my hometown, which I am visiting for a few days. I love it, but can afford it for only a few days. We’ll
see some relatives and some sights; some of our relatives are sights.
One joy of New York is entering the city from the north via the Palisades Parkway on the New Jersey
(west) side of the Hudson River. Careful planting hides the suburbs that line the route until, suddenly,
you are confronted with Manhattan and the stately George Washington Bridge.
By contrast, entering NYC from the south along the
Jersey Turnpike is a study in the industrial glamour of a great city. The problem is that few motorists
have any appreciation of industrial glamour.
The oil storage tanks and rail yards that line the 10 or more lanes of the turnpike are not viewed as art objects. The giant
cranes that transfer containers between land and sea carriers are beautiful only to those who appreciate the romance of commerce.
As I grew up in New York City, northeastern
New Jersey was an ugly place where uninteresting relatives lived boring lives. This trip has revealed
a beautiful New Jersey, close to NYC but affording outstanding residential and recreational pleasures
where highly valued relatives contribute to the intellectual and artistic enrichment of our nation.
Nonetheless, today’s resident of New York City
going anywhere west is most likely to see New Jersey as I did 50 or 60 years ago. The attractive aspects
are hidden from casual view.
Now think about our Hoosier cities. Indianapolis offers spectacular views of downtown from interstates 65 and 70 in both directions—as
long as you focus on the buildings in the distance and do not look at the properties you are passing. Fort Wayne’s major entryways
are commercial streets of little distinction. Evansville’s best approach (I-164) skirts the city until you are at the riverfront,
which is delightful.
and New Albany offer no views of interest as you cross north over the Ohio River on I-64 or I-65. Nor do they
present any invigorating aesthetic aspect from any other direction. South Bend and Terre Haute, Kokomo and Logansport have
no identifiable gateways of distinction.
We need not have an arch to rival St. Louis, but more communities could copy work done on the north side of Bloomington and
the west side of Columbus to welcome visitors and bolster the pride of residents. This is not an endorsement of Steak n Shake
along the park-scape of Bloomington or the McDonalds near the I-65 entry to Columbus. However, both cities deserve credit
for their attempts to provide visitors and residents with enriched experiences entering their respective cities.
The circumstances most like New Jersey and New
York City are to be found in our state in Lake County, outside Chicago. Drivers using the Indiana toll
road see what looks like industrial decay and desolation. No one could imagine living amid this sustained
horror. Only the most hardened could contemplate creating a business along this corridor of corrosion.
Similar remarks could be made about I-80/94
crossing Lake County from Hammond to Gary and the two interstates entering Indiana from Louisville.
Yet, today, New Jersey is one of the very richest
states in the nation, as New Yorkers have moved across the Hudson. Where once living in Jersey was a
cultural death sentence, hundreds of thousands now live and work in New Jersey as economic adjuncts to
the New York behemoth. What turned New Jersey from a pariah to a partial paradise? Can the same happen at our borders with
Chicago and Louisville?
Or is this, too, a matter to be set aside until that elusive time when today’s hot topics cool?
Morton Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former
director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.