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Updated: 7/19/2013 3:43 pm
DETROIT, Mich. (NBC News)  -- Vice President Joe Biden said Friday it's not clear if the federal government can do anything to help Detroit.

The once-powerhouse city, now deeply in decline and in debt, filed for bankruptcy yesterday.

Still, many residents are optimistic that a comeback now might be possible.

At the American Coney Island restaurant downtown, Detroiters who came for the hot dogs were upbeat about the bankruptcy.

Rick Maynor has lived here all his life.

"It's a good thing they went bankrupt; they can start all over," he says.

Senior officials put it the same way.

"This may be the low day, but this is the day to stabilize detroit," Governor Rick Snyder said.

As a judge takes control, how to pay the pensions of retired city workers, who resisted a deal, remains a question mark.

"The policemen, the firemen, the EMS, number one, their pensions and the actual working ones now they need to be taken care of," says Grace Keros, owner of American Coney Island.

They might not be.

Detroit is $19 billion in debt and and unemployment is at 18 percent.

Car productions has bounced back, but the city is a shell of what it was in its heyday of Motown and muscle cars.

The 1967 riots started a mass exodus and much of Detroit today is a wasteland of ruined neighborhoods.

Just 700,000 residents are left where once there were nearly 2 million.

-- Steve Handelsman, NBC News, reports
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