"Seventy five years after his death, the Marxist philosopher’s passion for the seedier, messier delights of cities such as Marseille and Moscow are a stark reminder of how sanitised today’s urban environment is becoming"
Here's a link to an excellent article about the importance of the seedier aspects of cities around the world. This is not Marxist nostalgia or a form of utopia. On the contrary, I believe much of what Benjamin loved about these cities (Marseille, Napoli and Moscow) is what has made New York City great but it is rapidly losing it as well. Nowadays there are only traces of it, and because of it NYC is also dying to the global Capitalist aesthetic (in which tall corporate buildings announce that Capitalism wants uniformity more than anything in the world). Patti Smith has also written and talked about it extensively in regards to what made NYC great in the 1960s and 1970s: the fact that different people, strangers, could talk and see each other, that there was an energy that was very conducive to new life experiences and--hence-- to creativity.
The cleanliness and safety of global cities are much more damaging than they appear precisely because they give a false illusion, false dreams which result in segregation, lack of communication and social life. I summarize one of the main arguments of the article with the following quote but do read it in its entirety.
"In the 1920s, Benjamin spent a lot of time in cities such as Moscow, Naples and Marseille – each in its different way giving him a cure to the disease of modern life in general, and the one in which he had been raised in particular. His compatriot, the German sociologist Max Weber, had written of the iron cage of capitalism inside which humans were submitted to efficiency, calculation and control. Cities were part of that system of control, which worked by keeping the poor and rich in their proper places. The cities that turned Walter Benjamin on were the opposite of that: porous labyrinths annulling class, time, space and even distinctions of light and dark."