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new york city atlas of urban renewal


By Jakob Winkler

New York City , 2017 For feedback, questions, and comments, please contact me at jakobpwinkler@gmail.com Creative Commons

Please feel free to use or reproduce parts or all of this book. Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 0.4 International License. To view a copy, visit: https://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ Acknowledgments

I want to thank the individuals and organizations that have helped me produce this atlas: Alexis Smallwood, Jack Eichenbaum, Miguel Robles-Duran (The New School), Paula Segal (596 Acres), Ron Shiffman (Pratt Institute), Tom Angotti (Hunter College), Val Orselli (Cooper Square Committee).


how to use this atlas This atlas is a tool for everyone who wants to learn about urban renewal in New York City, especially those who are living in or near urban renewal areas and want to have a greater say in how the City is “renewing� their neighborhoods.

PART

It provides information on how urban renewal has been impacting our city, explains how the policy of urban renewal works, and how local groups have successfully managed to intervene in this policy to use if tor their own ends.

12 PART

how has urban renewal been impacting our city?

how does the policy work?

Part 1 gives an overview of the history of urban renewal in New York City. In here you can find out about all urban renewal plans ever adopted; how these plans have impacted our city and are continuing to do so today; the relation of urban renewal to racist housing policies and the displacement caused by it; the beginnings of the policy in the 1950s; what has been built in urban renewal areas and who has benefited from it; and how urban renewal has been failing to keep its promises.

Part 2 explains how the urban renewal policy works. In here you can learn who in the City is responsible for coming up and implementing these plans, and where in the decision-making process you can raise your voices to make sure these plans benefit your own community.

pages

4 -17

pages

18-21


PART

34 PART

how have others intervened?

resources & index

Part 3 looks at examples of local groups that have organized to use this policy to develop their neighborhood in a community-led way. In here you can learn from these success stories, find out how they did it, what resources they used, and the strategies and tactics they applied.

pages

Part 4 provides a guide of helpful resources for organizing your community around urban renewal. The resources are highlighted throughout the atlas with red text and the icons to the right that include informational resources, tools, policies, and a list of organizations that work on the topic and can help you organize. In this part you can also find an index that helps you orient yourself within the atlas to find specific topics and the references and sources I used to produce this content.

22-37

pages

info

tools policies organizations

38-44


PART

1

how has urban renewal been impacting our city? find out how: urban renewal has impacted the city is continuing to do so today its relation to racist housing policies and the displacements caused by it the beginnings of urban renewal in the city what has been built in the name of the “public purpose� and who has benefited from it and how urban renewal has been failing to keep its promises

6 8

10

12

14

16


the legacy of urban renewal in new york city

6

150

Over urban renewal plans have been adopted in NYC ... “renewing” almost acres of land.

4,000

CITY URBAN RENEWAL PLANS STATE URBAN RENEWAL PLANS NEW YORK CITY NEW YORK STATE

1 2 SOURCES: map based on data from the Urban Reviewer and research on State urban renewal plans

NEW JERSEY STATE


7

Urban Renewal is a policy of urban revitalization that started in the mid-twentieth century as a response to the Great Depression and the decline of American cities. At that time, cities were loosing a great deal of their population due to the economic downturn. Wealthier and almost exclusively white residents “fled” to newly built suburbs in great numbers, adding further to the decline of cities by taking with them the city’s tax base (this is referred to as “white flight” today). At the same time, African Americans from the south, and Puerto Ricans were migrating to Northern cities in large numbers, often forced to live in substandard housing conditions due to explicit discrimination in the housing market (also see pages 10 and 11). The poor living conditions in American cities had long been a matter of public debate. In the late 19th century, a reform movement started documenting and bringing these “slum” conditions to public attention through photography, books, and journalism. In the following decades, more and more voices started to call for the demolition of “slums” and their replacement with “healthier” forms of housing. Early slum clearance started in the 1930s, but it was only 19 years later that the federal government passed the 1949 Housing Act. Title I of this legislation made large sums of money available for the demolition of “declining” neighborhoods and their replacement with new ones. Cities could force owners to sell their properties through eminent domain,

use federal money to bulldoze what was there, and hand over the land to private developers for redevelopment. In the following two decades, 2,532 urban renewal projects were carried out in 992 American cities under this program.3 While it set out to combat neighborhood decline—also often referred to as “blight”—, in reality it destroyed more housing than it produced. Urban renewal plans were almost exclusively adopted in minority communities, often bulldozing functioning low-income neighborhoods and replacing them with wealthier ones. Until the early 1970s, this policy displaced over 1 million Americans, most of which were African Americans.3 Communities throughout the United States started to fight what came to be known as “Negro Removal”. These activists forced the government to make important changes to the program, and in 1974 the widespread criticism paired with an economic downturn led to the end of the federal program altogether (see pages 22-37 for more on resistance to urban renewal). But New York City continued this policy on the basis of new State and City laws (also see pages 8 and 9). Since the early 1950s, more than 150 urban renewal plans have been adopted in the City, “renewing” almost 4,000 acres of land (equal to almost five times the size of Central Park).

I. IMPACTS OF URBAN RENEWAL

>> check out THE URBAN REVIEWER, an online map letting you find all urban renewal plans ever adopted by the city (on page 41)


urban renewal now and then Urban renewal is commonly referred to as the federal urban renewal program in place between 1949 and 1974 (see page 7 for more information). Yet, New York City continues to use this policy to shape our city today. This time line shows all urban renewal plans ever adopted by the City. Urban renewal in New York City did not end after federal support and funding for the program ended. Instead, it

1950s

8

continued on the basis of state and municipal laws. 40% of all urban renewal projects ever realized were adopted after the end of the federal urban renewal program. The last plan adopted by the City in 2008 is the Willets Point Urban Renewal Plan in Queens, which is currently under construction (see more on this plan on page 14).

1960s

1970s

23%

60%

before

10

5

0 1952

1960

1 SOURCES: map and calculations based on data from the Urban Reviewer

1970

End of Federal Urban Renewal Program (1974)

15 after

1980


9

And just now, the City is planning another urban renewal area in Downtown Far Rockaway, Queens. The City not only still adopts new plans, but it can also change existing urban renewal areas to redevelop neighborhoods. 77% of all plans were changed after 1974, showing how active urban renewal is today.

1990s

2000s

SIZE OF PLANS IN ACRES:

360

I. IMPACTS OF URBAN RENEWAL

1980s

0.05

PLANS ADOPTED WITHIN GIVEN DECADE PLANS ADOPTED BEFORE GIVEN DECADE PLANS MODIFIED WITHIN GIVEN DECADE PLANS MODIFIED BEFORE GIVEN DECADE

40%

77%

PLANS ADOPTED PER YEAR

PLANS PER YEAR LAST MODIFIED

1990

2000

2010


disinvestment, reinvestment, displacement Urban renewal built on racist policies of disinvestment that produced conditions of “blight”. This made it profitable to reinvest in these neighborhoods later on, causing waves of mass displacement. REINVESTMENT URBAN RENEWAL PLANS, 1952 - today

DISINVESTMENT

GOVERNMENTAL REDLINING MAPS, 1938 redlined areas

RACIAL RESIDENTIAL SEGREGATION NON-WHITE POPULATION, 1930 1 dot = 1 person

4 5 1 SOURCES: map based on data from NGHIS , Mapping Inequality , and Urban Reviewer

10


11

WAVES OF MASS DISPLACEMENT

DISINVESTMENT In the 1930s, the federal government adopted racist practices of the private housing market as public policy. The Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) was created in 1933 to help citizens finance their homes. It created “residential security” or redlining maps which demarcated areas with minority populations with red lines as “risky” and unfit for investment. People living in redlined areas were denied home loans as well as other private and public services, making it impossible to sell or renovate their homes and to build wealth. Redlining was not the only form of disinvestment though. In the 1970s, when hit with a severe fiscal crisis, the City adopted a practice called planned shrinkage. Public services such as police patrols and fire stations were removed from declining areas to concentrate them in “healthier” ones. These forms of disinvestment created the conditions for later reinvestments.

patterns of displacement

>> check out MAPPING INEQUALITY and UNDESIGN THE REDLINE to learn more about redlining in the US (page 40)

RACIAL RESIDENTIAL SEGREGATION Explicit racism in society and the private housing market created limited housing options for African Americans and other minority populations, who were forced to live in separated neighborhoods. White neighborhoods would prevent the influx of minority populations through racial covenants—deeds prohibiting home owners to rent or sell to non-whites—and even physical violence. The real estate industry used the existing racism to its advantage, charging higher rents for African Americans without maintaining their buildings. Realtors and speculators would also engage in “blockbusting” by encouraging people of color to move to certain white areas and buying properties at below-market rates from whites who feared the devaluation of their homes and “fled” to the suburbs.

I. IMPACTS OF URBAN RENEWAL

WAVES OF MASS DISPLACEMENT

REINVESTMENT In 1952 the City started bulldozing “blighted” areas under the urban renewal program with federal money and handing them over to private developers for redevelopment. The conditions of “blight” that were actively produced by the disinvestment discussed below opened these areas up for redevelopment and made it profitable for developers to reinvest. Often this redevelopment spurs gentrification, pushing out existing populations to make way for higher income groups to maximize the possible profit. Reinvestment takes many different forms and the government plays an important role. Apart from urban renewal, the City encourages private investment in the built environment through rezonings that allow for denser development, and tax benefits that incentivice developers to construct new housing.


the beginnings of urban renewal 1949-1960 In anticipation of the federal urban renewal program (see pages 7 and 11), the City created the Committee on Slum Clearance (CSC) in 1948. As the first urban renewal agency and under the direction of Robert Moses, it was in charge of initiating, coordinating, and executing urban renewal projects under Title I of the Housing Act until 1959, when it got replaced with the Housing and Redevelopment Board. The CSC acted in great autonomy from the political system and public scrutiny, making decisions behind closed doors and with a limited set of involved actors. Funding for these plans had to be approved by the City Planning Commission and the Board of Estimate—the City’s government body and precursor of today’s City Council—, as well as the Housing and Home Finance Agency which coordinated urban renewal at the federal level. This public decision-making process, however, became a mere formality or a “rubber stamp” procedure in which all plans submitted by the CSC got approval. The selection of sites and developers was done in private. In what came to be known as the “New York Method”, developers would propose redevelopment sites to the CSC which would then designate the areas as “slums”. For affected local communities, who were to be displaced and whose neighborhoods were to be bulldozed, it was almost impossible under this intransparent and undemocratic system to influence the decision-making process. morningside-manhattanville I1956 north harlem I1952 harlem I1952 west park I1952 lincoln square I1957 columbus circle I1953 penn station south I1955 new york university-bellevue I1954 corlears hook I1952 washington square southeast I1954 seward park I1952 park row I1958

12

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HOUSING AND HOME FINANCE AGENCY

CITY GOVERNMENT BOARD OF ESTIMATE CITY PLANNING COMMISSION ROBERT MOSES COMMITTEE ON SLUM CLEARANCE URBAN RENEWAL PLAN

DEVELOPER LOCAL COMMUNITIES

pratt insitute I1954 fort green I1952 flushing municipal parking lot I 1954 hammels-rockaway I 1958 seaside-rockaway I 1958

POPULATION 1950:

NON-WHITE WHITE:

7.888.347

775.516 (9.8%) 7.112.831 (90.2%)

PERCENTAGE NON-WHITE:

4 1 SOURCES: maps based on data from NGHIS and Urban Reviewer

86-100% 65-86%

46-65% 29-46%

14-29% 4-14%


displacements and population changes caused by early urban renewal

-77% -70% -89%

west park I1952

+390%

nonwhite total white

total -35%

non+6% white white

-35%

-66%

+79% +86% nonwhite total white

-181%

1960

total

white

-1%

-7%

non-white

DISPLACEMENT

POPULATION CHANGES 1950 -1960

POPULATION NYC: 7.777.571 NON-WHITE: 1.140.575 (14.7%) WHITE: 6.636.996 (85.3%)

+47%

north harlem I1952

columbus circle I1953

+205%

I. IMPACTS OF URBAN RENEWAL

It were exactly these areas that urban renewal sought to “save� by attracting the white middle class back to the city. As shown by the four examples on this map, urban renewal plans overproportionally displaced non-white residents, changing the racial makeup of these areas back to mostly white neighborhoods. By 1959, urban renewal had forcefully displaced 100,000 New Yorkers.6 Early urban renewal thus reinforced the segregation of the city.

nontotal white white

corlears hook I1952

Early urban renewal plans were almost exclusively adopted in communities of color. During the 1950s and following decades, the population of New York City, like many other U.S. cities in the north, changed considerably. From 1950 to 1960, the white population dropped by almost 500,000 people (or 7%), due to the decline of inner cities and the availability of federal support for whites-only homeownership in the newly built suburbs. In the same time period, the non-white population almost doubled, as African Americans from the rural South and Puerto Ricans were seeking better housing and employment opportunities in the North. However, explicit discrimination in society and the housing market created highly segregated neighborhoods for minority populations.

13

1950

POPULATION NYC: 7.888.347 NON-WHITE: 775.516 (9.8%) WHITE: 7.112.831 (90.2%)

PATTERNS OF DISPLACEMENT AREAS 46%+ NON-WHITE 1960 AREAS 46%+ NON-WHITE 1950 URBAN RENEWAL PLANS


the “public purpose� of urban renewal development year built UR plan program developer public subsidies

14

atlantic yards / pacific park partly finished; under construction (2017) atlantic terminal (adopted 1968) sports arena & residential luxury complex forest city ratner companies $726 (for arena alone) new york university 1973 & redesignation of existing buildings washington square southeast (1954) educational facilities and housing for private university new york university unknown

development year built UR plan program developer public subsidies

development year built UR plan program developer

lincoln center 1955-1969 lincoln square (1957) arts, entertainment & university complex consortium of civic leaders led by John D. Rockefeller III public subsidies unknown arverne by the sea partly finished (2017) arverne (1968) high-income residential complex joint venture betw. benjamin companies and beechwood organization $50 million

development year built UR plan program developer public subsidies

development year built UR plan program

willets point redevelopment under construction (2017) willets point (2008) upscale mixed-use neighborhood, hotel & convention center developer joint venture betw. sterling equities & related companies public subsidies $536 million (2017)

1 SOURCES: maps based on data from Urban Reviewer

URBAN RENEWAL PLANS


15

“The use of rights and powers to eliminate or prevent the development and spread of deterioration and blight through the clearance, replanning, reconstruction, rehabilitation, conservation or renewal of such areas for residential, commercial, industrial, community, public and other uses is a public use and public purpose essential to the public interest, and for which public funds may be expected.”

The City’s use of urban renewal and eminent domain (i.e. the right by the government to take away private properties) is legally restricted in several ways. Private property owners must get just compensation for their forced sell to the government, and the City can only use this framework if it can argue how taking private properties from one owner and putting it in the hands of another serves a public purpose. Historically, “slum” conditions and “blight” have been argued to constitute a risk to public health, and their replacement with “healthier” housing conditions thus a public benefit. At the beginning of urban renewal, this public benefit was related to the construction of affordable housing in the form of public and other forms of government-subsidized housing. However, this contested term has been reinterpreted over the decades and applied to many projects that only served private interests of developers.

properties to developers is a “cost-effective” way of developing the city with private money. The public, in this view, gains through the creation of new housing, resources, infrastructures and associated jobs. However, while this might benefit particular populations, low-income communities being displaced by such projects have no immediate benefit. For these groups, the destruction of their neighborhoods means the loss of social networks, the possibility of gaining future wealth from their properties, and having to find affordable housing alternatives in often less centrally located parts of the city with less access to city services and public transit. The real beneficiaries are oftentimes private entities and developers. The access to large parcels below regular market-prices paired with public subsidies in the form of tax exemptions and the public provision of infrastructure decreases the risk and of their investments.

Today, the City argues that economically revitalizing an area constitutes such a public purpose, even though the associated costs and benefits are distributed unevenly. Despite public expenses for providing the infrastructure (such as streets or public transportation), legal and administrative support, and tax exemptions for developers, the City gains tax revenues from new construction in the long term. It argues that handing over

The map to the right shows five examples of what has been built in the name of the “public purpose” in our city. Instead of providing healthy, safe, and affordable living conditions for New Yorkers, these publicly subsidized projects often take the form of luxury residential, private educational, commercial or entertainment complexes reserved for the wealthy.

I. IMPACTS OF URBAN RENEWAL

Article 15, §502 of the current version of New York State’s Urban Renewal Law


the failure of urban renewal - vacant land Urban renewal policies have had and are still having devastating effects on our city. Urban renewal plans are adopted under the assumption that by clearing so-called blighted neighborhoods and creating vacant, developable land, private redevelopment would occur on its own. And while this assumption proved correct in many cases, it did not in others. Instead of transforming “blighted� areas into more healthy, liveable, and profitable new ones, urban renewal plans often created the blighted conditions they set out to eradicate. Some cleared areas did not attract the attention of developers and many sites lie vacant for years before any development takes place. The map to the right shows the extent to which land cleared through urban renewal is still vacant in 2017. The percentage of vacant land within urban renewal plans varies and some neighborhoods are affected more than others. In Arverne and Edgemere, Queens, for example, almost 40% of the two urban renewal areas adopted in 1968 and 1979 are still unused today. Throughout the city, more than 250 acres of urban renewal land are still vacant today, equal to about half the size of Prospect Park and a third of Central Park.

VACANT LAND WITHIN URBAN RENEWAL AREAS DEVELOPED URBAN RENEWAL LAND

1 7 SOURCES: maps and calculations based on data from Urban Reviewer and ACS 2015

16


vacancy and race

AFRICAN AMERICANS

HISPANICS

I. IMPACTS OF URBAN RENEWAL

Which neighborhoods are the most affected by the government-produced vacant land? The map to the right compares the amount of vacant land within urban renewal areas to the racial, ethnic, and class composition of these same areas. After having bulldozed existing neighborhoods due to their designation as “blighted” the City simply had problems finding developers and investors for certain “unattractive” neighborhoods—partly due to the racist disinvestment and neglect that preceded urban renewal. The large swathes of undeveloped urban renewal land reflect the ongoing public and private disinvestment that low-income communities of color are facing today. And institutionalized racism still plays an important role in the uneven development of the City. As with the overall history of the negative impacts and costs of urban renewal, vacant land, too, disproportionally affects minority populations. The three separated racial dot maps of whites, blacks and African Americans, and Hispanics make this strikingly clear, with vacant land within urban renewal plans being concentrated in areas with high percentages of minority populations and wrapping around higherincome neighborhoods

17

VACANT TODAY: 73 acres (20%)

college point II adopted in 1969

staten island industrial park I & II adopted in 1971/73 yankee stadium adopted in 1973 arverne & edgemere adopted in 1968/79 broadway triangle adopted in 1989 bronxchester adopted in 1989 upper park avenue adopted in 1993

WHITES

TOTAL AREA: 360 acres 9 acres (3%)

270 acres

12 acres (31%)

39 acres 140 acres (38%)

365 acres 2 acres (13%)

15 acres

INCOME

6 acres (23%)

26 acres 0.6 acres (6%)

8 acres

VACANT LAND WITHIN URBAN RENEWAL AREAS DEVELOPED URBAN RENEWAL LAND HIGH-INCOME AREAS 2015 (median household income above $65,000) POPULATION BY RACE AND ETHNICITY 2015 (1 dot = 100 people)


PART

how does the policy work? find out: who in the city is responsible for coming up and implementing urban renewal plans, which other actors are involved and where in the decision-making process are there opportunities to intervene

2 20


5

CONSTRUCTION

4

LAND DEAL

visioning outreach

*

site designation

draft scope hearing

environmental review public hearings approval

*

MAYO

HPD, EDC, DCP, MAYOR

HPD

As the City’s urban renewal agency, HPD is responsible for the creation of urban renewal plans. In order for the City to use this powerful framework, it is required to show that the area is “blighted” and that its redevelopment would serve a “public purpose.” In order to do so, HPD must prepare plans for designated areas with a description of all properties and parcels included, the acquisition of private properties through eminent domain and the disposition of city-owned land, the general purpose of the plan, and the land uses that DCP are appropriate for such redevelopment.

urban renewal plan

*

20

Urban renewal plans can be initiated by the Mayor’s Office, HPD, EDC, DCP or a combination of them. Since the adoption of such plans requires parallel zoning changes by DCP, there is usually a multitude of actors involved. Usually, outreach is done after the City has come up with a vision. It is therefore crucial to organize early on in the process, so actual decisions can be influenced.

blight findings

ULURP

3

APPROVAL PROCESS

2

PLANNING

1

INITIATION

how the policy works

HPD, EDC, DCP, MAYOR CPC, CC, MAYOR, (CB, BP)

Urban renewal plans, like the simultaneous rezonings, are subject to environmental review and the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which require approval by the CPC and the City Council. Community Boards and Borough Presidents have advisory roles, but can’t veto a decision, a privilege reserved to the Mayor. This process provides limited opportunities to influence urban renewal plans since it often formally signs off already made decisions. Nevertheless, the public hearings that must be held by these actors before they can make decisions provide a platform to raise your voices and concerns. >> check out HOW ULURP WORKS (on page 40)

acquisition of parcels selection of developer

EDC

land disposition

construction completion

PRIVATE DEVELOPER

* marks the formal opportunities to influence the decision-making process.

8 SOURCE: diagram adapted from Sutton 2008

Once approved, HPD can and usually does delegate the administration of such plans to the City’s Economic Development Corporation, which works closely with private developers for their implementation. EDC is responsible to arrange the acquisition of private properties, provide relocation assistance to any residents and businesses that will be displaced, select a developer through a public request for proposals (RFP), and prepare an agreement with the developer on the redevelopment of the area and disposition of public land. Private developers have traditionally been the beneficiaries of urban renewal. The city provides public infrastructure (such as streets and sever systems, public transit etc.) and other resources (such as tax exemptions and legal and administrative support throughout the process) necessary for construction. Developers get access to large parcels of land and profit from the returns of their subsidized investments. One way that local groups have tried to make developers comply with community needs is through the negotiation of so-called Community Benefits Agreements.

CB


the official actors involved in urban renewal

The Mayor is elected by NYC residents and heads city government. He has the power to veto land use decisions. However, he rarely does so, since the agencies that develop proposals for urban renewal plans are guided by his political visions and actions. >> more info on the DECISION MAKERS (on page 41)

DCP

The Department of City Planning is the city agency responsible for rezonings, which play a crucial role in urban renewal plans since they usually require land use changes. DCP plans and guides neighborhood proposals through the ULURP process. The head of DCP also chairs the CPC.

CB

The 59 Community Boards are comprised of community volunteers that are nominated by the CC and appointed by the BPs. They advise the City in land use decisions within their district and hold public hearings. Even though they only have limited power in the approval process, they are the closest entity to local communities.

HDP

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is the City’s urban renewal agency, which means it has all powers associated with state and municipal urban renewal laws. While responsible for initiating, creating, and implementing urban renewal plans, it usually delegates the implementation to EDC.

CPC

The City Planning Commission is comprised of 13 members appointed by the Mayor (7), the Borough Presidents (5), and the Public Adcovate (1) and chaired by the head of DCP. It reviews land use decisions and has to approve any rezonings or adoption of urban renewal areas. Before that, it holds public hearings.

CC

The City Council is the City’s governing body, responsible for approving or disapproving urban renewal plans and zoning changes and only the Mayor can veto their decision. They can be held accountable since they are elected by the public. Getting the council member on board that represents your district is crucial.

EDC

The New York City Economic Development Corporation is a semipublic corporation that allows the City to provide services and benefits to private developers which would usually be prohibited under state law. EDC works closely with developers to maximize their profits and has limited accountability to the public.

BP

2. HOW URBAN RENEWAL WORKS

MAYOR

21

The five Borough Presidents are elected by the residents of each borough. They play an advisory role in the ULURP process and appoint Community Boards. BPs can be important pressure points in getting the City to listen to your needs as their position requires them to act as advocates for their boroughs.

DEVELOPER

Private developers have not only traditionally benefited from urban renewal but have also maintained close informal contacts to Mayors and other important decision makers to lobby for their benefit. Backed with money from international investors, their power lies in influencing favorable decisions behind closed doors.


PART

how have others intervened in urban renewal? learn how: the cooper square committee defeated an early slum clearance plan in manhattan’s lower east side and forced the city to adopt its community plan instead 596 acres helped two local groups get access to vacant urban renewal land, keeping the city to its promises of developing open space and nos quedamos / we stay fought an urban renewal plan and their displacement by developing their own plan

3 26

30

34


resistance to urban renewal

24

melrose commons community plan adopted in 1994

cooper square community plan adopted in 1970

VE “SA

OU

S”

ME

O RH

west village plan defeated in 1962 south village plan defeated in 1951

southside residents got access to vacant land in 2014 edgemere residents got access to vacant land in 2013

LOCAL RESISTANCE LOCAL RESISTANCE FOUGHT OFFICIAL PLAN LOCAL RESISTANCE GOT COMMUNITY-BASED PLAN ADOPTED URBAN RENEWAL PLANS

1 9 SOURCE: map based on data from Urban Reviewer and archival research at NYU’s Tamiment Library


25

This was not only the case in New York City but throughout the United States. Urban renewal also became a central issue addressed by the Civil Rights Movement, which exposed the racist logic behind the policy and denounced urban renewal as “Negro Removal.” As resistance and mobilization grew, academia and the media became more critical as well and public support for the policy decreased. This widespread opposition not only helped save many neighborhoods throughout America. But it also forced government to make important changes to the policy regarding community input and relocation assistance, and eventually to end of the federal urban renewal program altogether. Mobilization against urban renewal has continued in New York City as the City still uses this policy (see pages 6 and 7) and many of the negative effects are still lasting (pages 10, 11, 13 - 17). The following pages provide some of the experiences, tactics, and resources of three groups that have successfully done so: the Cooper Square Committee (pages 26 - 29), 596 Acres, and the Keap Fourth Community Garden and Edgemere Farm, respectively (pages 30 -33), and Nos Quedamos / We Stay (pages 34 - 37).

cooper square committe

the cooper square committee forced the city to adopt their own urban renewal plan for cooper square

keap fourth community garden

the keap fourth community garden got access to long unused land within the southside urban renewal area and turned it into a community garden

nos quedamos / we stay

nos quedamos fought an official plan and worked with the city to adopt their own vision for melrose commons

3. LEARNING FROM SUCCESSFUL EXAMPLES

Since the very beginnings of urban renewal, the policy was met by fierce resistance by impacted communities. This resistance has taken and still takes many different forms, ranging from everyday actions of mutual help among residents in the face of public neglect and disinvestment, collective protest and civil disobedience against displacement, and the organization of alternate neighborhood plans. During the 1950s, many neighborhoods slated for renewal organized Save our Homes campaigns in which residents came together to fight the demolition of their communities. Local neighborhood groups such as Yorkville Save Our Homes, the Chelsea Coalition on Housing, and the Cooper Square Committee eventually joined forces and formed the Metropolitan Council on Housing. Together, these groups continued to fight against individual urban renewal plans—organizing and informing residents throughout the city about ongoing urban renewal plans—but also created allies with the broader housing movement and national civil rights groups, and lobbied for changes in legislation on the city, state, and national level.


cooper square committee Learn how the Cooper Square Committee10 defeated an official urban renewal by the City and instead managed to use the urban renewal framework to create permanent affordable housing in the Lower East Side!

26


27

“The history of Cooper Square is one not only of achievement but of struggle and sacrifice as well. Making change is very, very hard. If we spent a year of two or three and walked away, it would have never happened.�

Frances Goldin, 2013


eas

the official plan

th s

av e

t

thr ird

coope r squa re

t nin

bowe ry

se

co

nd

av

e

In 1959, Robert Moses’ Committee on Slum Clearance designated the working class neighborhood around Cooper Square in Manhattan’s Lower East Side as “blighted” and developed an urban renewal plan to replace it with middle-income cooperative housing. The plan would have displaced over 2,400 permanent tenants and 500 businesses who called the area home. The City provided no plans for the people who would be displaced, but only for the built environment and the new residents.

ED!

HT LIG

B

delan

housto

n

cey s

t

getting organized When residents found out that the City had slated their neighborhood for renewal, they quickly organized to fight their displacement. They used sit-ins, demonstrations, and civil disobedience to voice their anger. But more importantly, on March 17, 1959 residents and business owners formed the Cooper Square Community Development Committee and Businessmen’s Association, short Cooper Square Committee (CSC), to develop their own, community-based vision for the area. The Committee started conducting its own survey of the area to counter the City’s “blight” findings and organize residents in weekly meetings.

forming allies

cooper square committee

To advance their plan, the Committee formed allies and built coalitions across the city and beyond. Most importantly, they partnered up with advocacy-planner Walter Thabit, who would help the residents put their visions in a plan that would be taken seriously by the government. To advocate for their own plan, the Committee connected with the national housing movement, important organizations in the city, the media, and the local government itself. These allies had and still have to be sustained and new ones formed to help the ongoing struggles for the neighborhood.

28


29

community plan In July 1961, after two years of organizing and over one hundred meetings, the Alternate Plan was presented to the City. The plan was based on the simple principle that people living in the area must be the beneficiaries and not the victims of any redevelopment. The plan meant to ensure the long term affordability of one of the most expensive real estate in New York City. However, creating the plan was only the beginning of a struggle that has lasted fifty years and still continues today.

3. COOPER SQUARE COMMITTEE

>> read the ALTERNATE PLAN and learn about CSC’s principles (more on page 40)

lobbying for support It took the Committee another ten years to force the City to adopt the community’s plan. This required committed efforts to lobby public officials, the media, and keeping residents on board and active over the years. When the City finally adopted the Alternate Plan as the official urban renewal plan in 1971, there was no available public funding. The first housing project, named after the first Cooper Square chairperson, Thelma Burdick, only got completed in 1984.

eas

>> check out CSC’s WEBSITE to learn more about how they succeeded with their struggles (page 40)

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In 1991, twenty years after the plan got adopted, CSC created the Cooper Square Community Land Trust (CLT) and the Mutual Housing Association (MHA). The MHA is an affordable housing cooperative which is run democratically by the shareholders who live in its buildings. They collectively own the buildings that sit on land leased to the association by the CLT. This system ensures that housing remains affordable. Today, the MHA owns 21 buildings on some of the most valuable real estate in the country. Yet, the struggle continues as the neighborhood is facing gentrification and pressures by the real estate sector.

buildilngs owned by MHA

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thr

staying involved

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596 acres Learn how 596 Acres11 helped two local groups get access to long vacant land within urban renewal plans and turn them into community gardens!

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31

“Making Urban Renewal Plans accessible helped us find places that are cleared with the intention of creating open public spaces.�

Paula Segal, 2015


mapping city plans

32

In 2012, the community land access advocacy organization 596 Acres in collaboration with Partners & Partners and SmartSign mapped all 150+ urban renewal plans ever adopted by the City to make this information available to all New Yorkers. They needed to file a Freedom of Information File request. Until then, this information only existed in form of paper in the office of New York City’s urban renewal agency, the Department for Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The team inspected all plans and digitized all lots that were included in these plans. >> check out the URBAN REVIEWER website to find the plans, vacant city-owned land within them, and organize to reclaim it (more on page 41)

finding vacant land The online map allows to find all vacant land within urban renewal areas that is owned by the City and is still vacant to this day. Urban renewal plans are supposed to serve a public purpose, yet a large amount of land within these plans sits vacant to this day. Some of these lots were planned as open space for the community though this never happened because no developers could be found to turn these plans into reality. Today, these designations of long adopted plans do still matter. HPD is not allowed to use lots with open space designations for other uses, which opens a possibility for community members to reclaim this land.

sharing the info 596 Acres puts signs on these vacant lots so people in the affected neighborhoods get access to this information. Based on the open space designations in the urban renewal plans, local groups can start organizing to reclaim these spaces for the community and push the City to fulfill its long outstanding promises.

>> visit 596 ACRES’ WEBSITE to find out more about organizing for community land access and get in touch for help (page 40)


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local organizing Based on 596 Acres’ signs, residents in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Edgmere, Queens got active to get access to vacant lots. The groups wanted to turn these unused urban spaces into resources for the community and started organizing to turn this idea into reality. In the case of South Williamsburg a specific lot was designated as open space in the urban renewal plan from 1992 and has since been sitting vacant. In the case of Edgmere, the plan foresaw the creation of several public space uses, among them the Edgemere Urban Renewal Park which never materialized.

The two groups lobbied the City and public officials, reached out to the media to spread the word, and got more residents involved to support the idea on the ground.

3. 596 ACRES

lobbying for support

>> visit EDGEMERE FARM‘S and KEAP FOURTH COMMUNITY GARDEN’S WEBSITES to find how these prior unused lots are now resources for the community (page 40)

reclaiming space In 2013, the unrealized park in Edgemere has been transformed into a zero-profit community farm that provides freshly grown food to residents and functions as a site for residents to meet and learn about growing plants. Similarly, in 2014, the lot in South Williamsburg was transferred to the Parks department without resistance from the relevant agencies. More then 20 years after the lot had been designated as open space, residents celebrated their victory with a formal ribbon cutting.


nos quedamos / we stay Learn how Nos Quedamos / We Stay12 worked with the City to fight their displacement and get their own community-based plan adopted as the official urban renewal plan for the area!

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35

“In the proposed Urban Renewal Plan, our community was to be displaced, thereby removing the very same people who had weathered the abandonment of all aids and money through the past decades. These were the same community residents who had taken on the awesome responsibility of protecting their homes, businesses and ultimately their community.�

Yolanda Garcia, 2010


the official plan

UNDERUTILIZED SPACE!

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In the late 1980s the Department of City Planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development initiated an urban renewal plan for a 30-block area in the South Bronx. While the area had weathered through decades of public neglect and disinvestment, it was still home to around 500 residents and 80 businesses which would have been displaced under the City’s plan. It foresaw to turn the “underutilized” space into a denser middleincome community, and provide services that had been withheld from the community in place.

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organizing resistance

“Be part of this committee. Make changes for your own future, do not let your children down. Plan for your future and there future.” NOS QUEDAMOS 1993

While the official planning did not consult any existing community members, residents and business people of the area heard of the plan and organized local resistance. In February 1993 they formed the organization Nos Quedamos / We Stay to advance their claim that the existing community had a right to benefit from the improvements and future prosperity. The group started holding meetings to inform and organize additional community members against their displacement by stopping the proposed plan and demanding the city to be included in future planning.

intervening

WE STAY

!

The city had established a public forum called Bronx Center Project under Bronx Borough President of the time, Fernando Ferrer, to discuss the pending developments. Initially excluded members of the community intervened in a public meeting, shouted down the planners, and demanded to be part of the process. Through exerting public pressure, Nos Quedamos got Borough President Ferrer to convince the City to postpone the certification of the current plan and start a collaborative planning effort. Petr Stand, a private planner and architect from Magnusson Architects, sided with the activists and started working with Nos Quedamos pro bono.

36


forming coalition

borough president

HPD

Nos Quedmaos was able to organize a broad coalition including the Departments of City Planning, Housing Preservation and Development, Transportation, and Environmental Protection, as well as the Mayor, Borough President, and Congressman Jose Serrano. The City agreed to reschedule the adoption of the urban renewal plan and give the organization 6 months to develop a community proposal for a new plan with assistance from planning professionals.

magnusson architects DoT

mayor

nos quedamos

congress members

DCP

community planning Nos Quedamos started holding weekly meetings with community members in the basement of a local church to create the aims and principles of their own plan. While agreeing to certain aims of the City, such as higher density of the neighborhood and a mix of incomes, Nos Quedamos also enforced its own principles: no involuntary displacement of current businesses and residents, keep tenant cooperatives in the control of residents, increase economic opportunities and public investment, respect existing street and movement patterns within the community, and create and adopt mechanisms that ensure future community participation and control over the process.

staying involved

>> check out NOS QUEDAMOS’ WEBSITE to learn more about their process (page 40)

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The example of Nos Quedamos shows how sustained change is only possible through staying involved. After the hybrid plan between Nos Quedamos and the City got adopted as the official urban renewal plan in 1994, the organization stayed involved in managing affordable housing in the area and providing services for the community.

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PART

resources & index find: helpful resources for organizing your community around urban renewal (this includes information, tools, policies, and organizations that work on the issue and can help you organize) an index of all the topics discussed in this atlas that helps you find what you are looking for and a list of references and sources that I used producing this atlas

4 40

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resource guide

INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES >> An Alternate Plan for Cooper Square the cooper square committee’s alternate plan can serve as a model for community-based plans with important principles to consider availabe at: archive.org/details/alternateplanfor00coop >> Mapping Inequality an online map with digitized overlays of all official redlining maps produced for american cities by the home owners loan corporation availabe at: dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redliing/#loc=4/36.71/ -96.93&opacity=0.8 >> Undesign the Redline

40

ORGANIZATIONS >> 596 Acres community land access advocacy organization helping new yorkers to get access to vacant public land find more information and contact info under: 596acres.org >> Cooper Square Committe local group that defeated an official urban renewal plan and got the city to adopt their own community plan find more information and contact info under: coopersquare.org >> Edgmere Farm

a travel exhibit and online toolkit by “designing the we” that provides information on the legacy of redlining in the us availabe at: www.designingthewe.com/undesign-the-redline/

local community farm on former vacant lot find more information under: edgemerefarm.org

>> How ULURP Works

archive by and for social movements with an emphasis on urban social movements find more information and contact info under: interferencearchive.org

a visualization by the center for urban pedagogy explaining how the uniform land use review procedure works and how to get involved availabe at: welcometocup.org/Projects/EnvisioningDevelopment/ WhatIsULURP >> What is Zoning? Guidebook a guidebook by the center for urban pedagogy explaining zoning and how it is used by the city to plan our neighborhoods availabe at: welcometocup.org/file_columns/0000/0530/ cup-whatiszoning-guidebook.pdf

>> Interference Archive

>> Keap Fourth Community Garden local community garden on former vacant lot find more information under: keapfourthgarden.org >> Metropolitan Council on Housing tenant’s rights organization that played a crucial role in organizing against urban renewal in the city find more information and contact under: metcouncilonhousing.org >> Nos Quedamos / We Stay local group that defeated an official urban renewal plan and got the city to adopt their own community plan find more information and contact info under: nosquedamos.org


41

POLICIES

USEFUL TOOLS

>> 197-a plans

>> Living Lots

a framework for community planning that lets you create your own neighborhood plan with your local community board information and guide available under: www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/ community/community-based-planning.page

an online map that lets you find information on all vacant, city-owned land and resources to get access available at: livinglotsnyc.org

website with links to all five borough presidents, including information on activities, events, and resources information and contact under: www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/3083/contact-a-borough-president >> City Council find the city council member that represents your district, as well as all resolutions passed by the council (including the adoption and modification of urban renewal areas) information and contact under: http://council.nyc.gov/legislation/ >> Community Boards locate your community board, find out about public hearings, read meeting minutes and reports, and get in touch information and contact under: nyc.gov/html/cau/html/cb/cb.shtml

>> Urban Reviewer an online map with all urban renewal plans ever adopted by the city, the land use desnigations, status of the plans, and vacant land available at: urbanreviewer.org >> NYC Open Data Portal the city’s open data portal that allows you to find and map information on government programs available at: opendata.cityofnewyork.us

4 .RESOURCE GUIDE

>> Borough Presidents

>> Department of City Planning find information on zoning, current rezonings, and other resources on land use issues information and contact under: www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/index. page >> Department of Housing Preservation and Development find information on current activities by the city’s urban renewal agency information and contact under: /www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/index.page >> Economic Development Corporation find information on current redevelopment projects and related official documents information and contact under: www.nycedc.com/

do you know of other helpful resources that are not included here? please shoot me an email at: jakobpwinkler@gmail.com


index 1949 housing act 596 acres adoption of urban renewal plans arverne urban renewal plan atlantic terminal / atlantic yards urban renewal plans blight blockbusting board of estimate borough president

42

7, 12 24, 25, 30 - 33

flushing municipal park lot I urban renewal plan

12

6 - 9, 20, 21, 29, 32, 37

fort green south urban renewal plan

12

14, 16

14 7, 10, 11, 12, 30 10, 11 12 20, 21, 36, 37

broadway triangle urban renewal plan

16

bronxchester urban renewal plan

16

CC - nyc city council

20, 21

gentrification

10, 11

hammels-rockaway urban renewal plan

12

housing and home finance agency

12

HPD - nyc department of housing preservation and development lincoln square urban renewal plan

20, 21, 36, 37

12, 14

melrose commons urban renewal plan

24, 34 - 37

modification of urban renewal plans

6, 7, 32, 33

college point urban renewal plan

16

columbus circle urban renewal plan

12 - 14

committee on slum clearance

12, 13, 28

community boards

20 , 21

north harlem urban renewal plan

cooper square committee

24 - 29

nos quedamos / we stay

12, 13

park row urban renewal plan

12

penn station south urban renewal plan

12

planned shrinkage

10, 11

corlears hook urban renewal plan cooper square urban renewal plan CPC - city planning commission

24, 26 - 29 12, 20, 21

morningsidemanhattanville urban renewal plan

12

new york universitybellevue south urban renewal plan

12

pratt institute urban renewal plan

12, 13 24, 25, 34 - 37

12

DCP - nyc department of city planning

20, 21, 36, 37

private developers

disinvestment

10, 11, 36, 37

public purpose

14, 15

11, 13, 24, 25, 28, 29, 36, 37

race and urban renewal

6, 7, 10 - 13, 17

displacement EDC - nyc economic development corporation edgemere urban renewal plan

20, 21, 37 16, 24, 30 - 33

12, 14, 15, 20, 21

racial covenants

10, 11

redlining

10, 11


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12, 24 - 37

rezonings

11, 20, 21

robert moses

12, 13, 28

seaside-rockaway urban renewal plan

12

seward park urban renewal plan

12

south village urban renewal plan

24

southside urban renewal plan staten island industrial park I & II urban renewal plans tax benefits ULURP - uniform land use review procedure upper park avenue urban renewal plan

24, 30 - 33

16 11, 20, 21

20, 21 16

urban renewal law

7, 15

urban reviewer

6, 32

vacant urban renewal land washington square southeast urban renewal plan west park urban renewal plan

16, 17, 32, 33

12 12,13

west village urban renewal plan

24

willets point urban renewal plan

14

yankee stadium urban renewal plan

16

4. INDEX

resistance to urban renewal plan


references & sources 1

Urban Reviewer, available at: http://www.urbanreviewer.org/

2

Empire State Development Corporation, available at: https://esd.ny.gov/

3

Fullilove, Mindy Thompson (2001): Root Shock: The Consequences of African American Dispossession, in: Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78(1), 71-80, available at: http://ij.org/report/eminent-domain-african-americans/

4

National Historical Geographic Information System, available at: https://www.nhgis.org/

5

Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America, available at: https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/#loc=4/36.71/-96.93&opacity=0.8

6

Metropolitan Council on Housing (no date): History: Early Grassroots Political Action, available at: http://metcouncilonhousing.org/our_history/early_organizing

7

American Community Survey 2015, available at: https://www.census.gov/

8

Sutton, Stacey (2008): Urban Revitalization in the United States: Policies and Practices. Final Report. United States Urban Revitalization Project (USURRP), available at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/c2arl/pdf_files/USURRP_Phase_I_ Final_Report.pdf

9

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, Metropolitan Council on Housing Records (TAM.173)

10

Angotti, Tom (2008): New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate. Cambridge / London: MIT Press Cooper Square Committee Website, available at: http://www.coopersquare.org/ Thabit, Walter (2005): Cooper Square Committee Chronology. A listing of Cooper Square events and activities including victories and defeats - from March 1959 through March 2005, available at: http://www.coopersquare.org/ wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2005_CSC_Chronology.pdf

11

596 Acres Website, available at: http://596acres.org/ Segal, Paula Z. (2015): From Open Data to Open Space: Translating Public Information Into Collective Action, in: Cities and the Environment (CATE), 8(2): Article 14, available at: http://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent. cgi?article=1184&context=cate Urban Reviewer, available at: http://www.urbanreviewer.org/

12

Angotti, Tom (2008): New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate. Cambridge / London: MIT Press Stand, Petr / Garcia, Yolanda / Bautista, Eddie / Olshansky, Barbara (1966): Melrose Commons, A Case Study for Sustainable Community Design, Paper prepared for the 1996 Planners Network Conference, “Renewing Hope, Restoring Vision: Progressive Planning in Our Communities�, available at: http://www.plannersnetwork. org/magazine-publications/case-studies-and-working-papers/melrose-commons-a-case-study-for-sustainablecommunity-design/

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4. REFERENCES

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JAKOB WINKLER, 2017

New York City Atlas of Urban Renewal  

This atlas was part of my thesis project "Critical Cartographies of Change" in MS Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons School of Design. Th...

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