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M.A. Theories of Urban Practice M.S. Design and Urban Ecologies School of Design Strategies
Practices and Ecologies Graduate Thesis Excerpts May 2014, New York City Blair Lorenzo Matt DelSesto Braden Crooks Andrew Tucker Jonathan Lapalme Bonnie Netel + Jessica Kisner Charles N. Chawalko Thesis Advisors Aseem Inam Miguel Robles Duran Mindy Fullilove Miodrag Mitrasinovic Victorial Marshall William Morrish Dean of School of Design Strategies Alison mears M.A. Theories of Urban Practice M.S. Design and Urban Ecologies School of Design Strategies
Next Urban Practices and Ecologies is a publication of excerpts from the thesis work of M.A. Theories of Urban Practice and M.S. Design and Urban Ecologies (class of 2014) Parsons The New School for Design http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/ School of Design Strategies http://sds.parsons.edu/#highlights Design Dialogues http://sds.parsons.edu/designdialogues/
Faculty / Thesis Advisors Aseem Inam
Associate Professor of Urbanism
Miguel Robles Duran
Assistant Professor, Urbanism
Mindy Fullilove Part-time Lecturer
Thesis Synopsis Theories of Urban Practice Design and Urban Ecologies
Theory as Practice
The Washington Metro and the Fall and Rise of American Urbanism
Remaking Urban Society: Gardens as Infrastructure for Democracy
Associate Professor of Urbanism and Architecture
Assistant Professor of Urban Design
Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism
Lead Authors Blair Lorenzo Matt DelSesto Braden Crooks Andrew Tucker Jonathan LaPalme Bonnie Netel + Jessica Kisner Charles N. Chawalko Book Design Gamar Markarian Larissa Begault Cover Photo Aran Baker
© Copyright 2015 by Parsons The New School
All rights reserved. Next Urban Practices and Ecologies may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. ISBN 1508634319
Common Praxis Economy of Ethics: Emergent Cooperation Across Diverse Urban Ecologies
Everyday Urbanities “An Abstraction that Became True in Practice”: The Ecology of the ‘Ethnic Enclave’
What lies Between: The Agonism of the [New] Urban Brokering
Maintaining Place Through Active Citizenship and Street Food Vending
Rethink the block Illuminating Illusions: Southbridge Towers and the Myths of Mitchell-Lama Privatization
INTRODUCTION The MA Theories of Urban Practice and the MS Design and Urban Ecologies are research-driven graduate programs for students who seek a profound understanding of how cities and urban ecosystems emerge and evolve, and wish to acquire the transdisciplinary knowledge required to transform them. The MA program is more academicallydriven and offers the kind of critical theories, strategic knowledge, and actionable research that the rapidly changing and complex nature of contemporary cities requires. The thesis in the MA program addresses critical issues, problems, questions and projects in urbanism and urban practice. The central requirement of the thesis is that it contains a rigorous research component, even if it is eventually proposal-oriented. The MS program is a studio-based, practice focused program that educates students in transdisciplinary approaches and methods to designing processes of urban-ecosystem transformation. In the second year of the program, thesis students develop comprehensive proposals for more cohesive and socioecologically responsible urban development. Designing is proposed as an instrumental medium through which associations, coalitions and organizations of the civil society conceptualize, visualize and mobilize proposals for changing existing urban and ecological situations into preferred ones. In the MA program, thesis might take the form of a scholarly research project or be a community- or clientoriented research project, and may result in new findings, insights or strategic proposals. The format of the thesis could be an extended academic paper, a documentary film, a website, a multimedia presentation, a project proposal, an intervention, or a performance. In the MS program, students work with a broad range of organizations to understand the sources and mechanisms of urban conflict, and operationalize the knowledge produced in order to make proposals that attempt to change urban policies, protocols and everyday processes that produce complex urban and socio-spatial ecologies. This volume features a snapshot of the thesis work of the first generation of students in both MA and MS programs. Although the thematic framing of the work varies between and within programs, the common orientation towards
imagining and proposing visions for a more participatory, inclusive, just and democratic urban space is what brings the work in this volume together. The power of this work is in doing so without attempting neither to totalize nor to simplify, but build a complex ecology by employing diversity, difference and the notion of socio-spatial justice as keys to rethinking both democracy and ecology. From new cooperative models and modalities of co-production, to food, public health and safety, and composting as infrastructures for democratic participation, to the right to the city and the right to difference, the engaged and critical voices of our alumni are already making a critical difference in their communities and in the world today. Aseem Inam Associate Professor of Urbanism Alison Mears Dean of the School of Design Strategies Miodrag Mitrasinovic Associate Professor of Urbanism and Architecture
THEORIES OF URBAN PRACTICE Blair Lorenzo The Washington Metro and the Fall and Rise of American Urbansim In the same year as the passage of the Interstate Highway Act, at the height of American auto-centric suburbanization, Washington DC began the process of constructing the second largest rail rapid transit system in the United States. This thesis uses the Metro project as a lens to investigate the evolving and changing meanings of American urbanism; exploring not only one avenue through which the current urban renaissance has come about, but also the nebulous and undertheorized concept of the urban and its potential impact on how we shape cities in the present and for the future. Xavier Williams Breaking New Ground: Exploring Spatial and Discursive Dynamics of Temporary Use Today, the public realm is often understood through claims by civic discourse and creative enterprise to permanence and memorability, whereas temporary-use has emerged as a particularly influential urban practice challenging the status quo. Temporary use has typically been theorized among practitioners and academics vis-a-vis notions of spatial transformation and land use reclamation therefore limiting the theoretical space within which this type of practice is conceived and operationalized. Breaking New Ground: Exploring Spatial and Discursive Dynamics of Temporary Use draws on informant interviews and observation analysis across three urban practices to propose a framework for a set of relational methodologies meant to establish new grounds for temporary urban transformations.
Alex Roesch Residential Displacement and Resistance in Crown Heights, Brooklyn: Building Communities of Practice This thesis complements existing knowledge of residential displacement with knowledge gained through the study of communal practices of resisting displacement in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. First, the project analyzes and engages with what have become standard practices of ‘displacement quantification’, methods of research that shape the current knowledge of residential displacement. The inadequacy of this body of knowledge provokes the need for researching practices and processes of displacement through building communities of practice. One such community, the Crown Heights Tenant Union, is analyzed through engaged, participant observation as a site for the production of integral knowledge that leads to successfully resisting displacement via organized community action.
Victoria Petrovsky Healing from the Ground Up: Community Composting in Newark NJ The project consists of short a documentary uncovering relationships among organizations and people I have become involved with while starting a compost pilot in Newark. It will discuss the challenges of urban land regeneration and social revitalization, from the point of view of the organizations working towards these goals as well as community/ies on the receiving end. Finally the project outlines scenarios for growth of composting as a [gateway] community practice in Newark that are placed within a ‘deep sustainability’ paradigm.
Themis Pellas Contemporary Shifts to the Institutional Mediation of health: The State of Emergency in Greece
This paper challenges the current practice of cultural coexistence and how this practice has failed to evolve beyond the 1960’s rhetoric. This study looks toward a country that is at a tipping point. We can continue to ignore our cultural differences or as a country we can be dedicated to cross cultural dialogue and understanding. Without adequate preparation, the country is at risk of continuing the cycle of conflict and cultural distrust. This thesis seeks to answer the question: How can urban practitioners meet the needs of cultural groups [multiple publics] and progress beyond the coexistence of difference [multiculturalism] into the cohabitation of difference through coproduction [interculturalism]?
Emergency legislation, economic dispossession, unemployment, police coercion, everyday precariousness, internalization of guilt and shame, racism attribute to the management of crisis in Greece, under which, healthcare financial cuts and restructuring parallel racialized and gendered criminalization of HIV-positive persons and intensified, discriminatory policing of Roma population and sans papiers immigrants. Ad hoc clinics — free of charge and voluntary-based — have been initiated to cope with the detriment of state-funded social services due to the adjustment programme between the greek state, the euro area Member States and the International Monetary Fund. The purpose of this thesis is to decipher and amplify a common denominator of this response with contemporary global shifts in the institutional mediation of health — the destabilization of social roles, and more particularly, professional compartmentalization and social construction of disease in order to delineate potential transformations of habitation modalities and the antagonisms that this entails.
Matt DelSesto Remaking Urban Society: Food as Infrastructure for Democracy
Maryam Khabazi Disaster Management through Social Resilience
How do gardens grow both food and citizens? This project explores the most empowering and effective agricultural practices for the cultivation of urban democracy. In depth case study analysis and reflection on recent developments in the food justice movement illuminates civic engagement strategies, ecological management, and design practices that are producing the next food infrastructure.
This thesis focuses on the connectivity processes that are necessary for the governance and daily management of preparedness for disaster in cities and how this connectivity can increase resiliency of organizations to respond to disaster. In order to be prepared for disasters this thesis conducts an investigation about the current networks between community-based organizations including Occupy Sandy, Sahana Foundation, and Neighborhood organizations. This investigation leads to the proposal of actions and strategies to generate more effective and successful disaster management.
Joy Alise Davis Right to Difference: Intercultural Modes of Producing a Democratic, Participatory and inclusive Urban space
DESIGN AND URBAN ECOLOGIES COMMON PRAXIS Braden Crooks Economy of Ethics: Emergent Cooperation Across Diverse Urban Ecologies Urban Economic Development routinely fails to produce lasting, ‘incommon’ equity and prosperity for urban communities struggling in a globalized world. Through research on comprehensive alternatives, such as a Situational Analysis of Cleveland’s “Evergreen Cooperatives,” as well as collaboration with civic organizations in New York City, the thesis seeks to influence a new direction for economic cooperation across diverse urban ecologies. Aubrey Murdock Everything we Need is Already Here: Unearthing the Social Geology of our Commons “Everything We Need is Already Here: Modeling in the Fractured City” works from the central question: How do we teach The Commons? This thesis examines The Commons and Enclosure, knowledge and learning, in our present global context. The praxis portion of this thesis is an exploration of the role that critical place-based pedagogy and nontraditional teaching methods can play in healing the rift between communities and the places in which they live. The foundation of the work is my experience implementing these ideas in collaboration with a middle school class in Orange, New Jersey. My work with these students is focused on fostering curiosity, creativity, and criticality in the ways they engage with their world; qualities necessary for commons-based educational ideas and practice.
Charles Wirene Reconnecting the Grid: Community Owned Energy Infrastructure in Planning to Stay Like the natural ecosystems we study in high school biology class - which include forests, deserts, or freshwater lakes - urban ecologies are home to a multiplicity of systems - social, ecological, economic, political, and technological among them – which are intricately interwoven and interdependent in both obvious and obscure ways. New York’s density and diversity make it a remarkably complicated and congested urban ecology, an exciting case of the urban systems that exist at different scales across the country and the world. As a response to the growing awareness of this modern complexity, Reconnecting the Grid explores the increasingly obvious detrimental effects that dominant neoliberal policies have on the physical infrastructures supporting these urban ecologies. This exploration sets up the subsequent discussion of an alternative, commons-based infrastructure – a community owned, managed and distributed Energy Commons – built from the Planning to Stay framework. Alexandra Castillo-Kesper How the Rest of Us Work: the Rise of the City’s Contingent Workforce Alex is an urban ecologist focused on the relationship between the changing face of work and the city. This thesis project combines archival, ethnographic and participatory research methods to open and create discursive spaces around the socioeconomic and racial diversity of the city’s growing precarious workforce.
Joshua Barndt Here to Stay
Andrew Tucker An Abstraction that Became True in Practice: The Ecology of the ‘Ethnic Enclave’
Here To Stay is an online platform and oral history archive of the History of the Cooper Square Committee. Through stories of struggle and triumph, it tells why Community Land Trusts are necessary to sustain affordable housing in NYC. Produced through an engaged praxis of ‘Unflattening History’, Here To Stay is a provocation that as Urban ecologists we must be relentless and impassioned in our effort to historicize the making of the city not simply as the result of politics, policies, and urban planning, however important these may be; but as the result of people working together, through cooperation and antagonisms, to make this entangled place work for themselves and those they care about.
This thesis work explores the dialectical forces that are simultaneously (re)creating and destroying Manhattan’s downtown Chinatown as an ethnic enclave. This study begins as a macro level, ecological exploration of the socio-structural, political-economic, and culturalspatial forces as they intersect around a specific spatial location. The second part of this study suggests a series of interventions that seek to address three intractable ‘frictions’ faced by the urban practitioners as they utilize design as an intervention in community-based processes.
Jonathan Lapalme Urban Health and Safety: Street Vendors as Double Agent
Joel Stein Entangling Uncertainties, Risk and Resilience This project analyzes the emerging conditions of urban risk governance and the new framing of resiliency, focusing on the structural conditions of power and infrastructure. Proposing a participatory form of community risk assessment that is both futurelooking and pastinformed, it resituates uncertainty as a point of action in sustaining shared urban livelihoods.
Case Study: Beyond merely selling food, street food vendors in NYC have demonstrated to be strategically positioned to play pivotal roles in addressing momentaneous, acute and chronic urban challenges. In order to increase the unofficial social role that street vendors play in the city while addressing the struggles they face daily, mobile carts will be rethought as a diffused and anticipatory social infrastructure in which exists a root of strategy ready to be deployed to address public health and safety issues in collaboration with local organizations.
Bonnie Netel + Jessica Kisner Maintaining Place through Active Citizenship & Street Food Vending Privatization, commodification and securitization are threatening our cities’ public space and people’s ability to appropriate such spaces. In addition to regulatory enforcement of the built environment, these forces directly impact vendors that sell food on the street. Furthermore, street food vending is a practice that transcends food and evokes conversations of immigration, public space and cultural narratives of its people. The street food cart is the physical device for capturing attention and creating agency in the increasingly privatized public realm. In partnership with Vamos Unidos, the street food cart will be the host for an intervention that navigates complex urban ecologies in order for street food vendors to maintain their place on the street. Sabrina Dorsainvil + Luisa Munera Urban Atlas Project Piloted in Harlem, The Urban Atlas Project is a platform for residents and local artists to identify and investigate urban conditions that impact their everyday life. The key component of this tool, the Urban Atlas Guide, utilizes creative methods and tactics to conduct urban investigations in their respective neighborhoods. The goal is to facilitate ways in which the people directly affected by change explore discourse and imaginaries around urban development. The vision is to build a method of investigating, understanding and imagining the urban environment that can inspire a movement focused on resident empowerment around urban development. Gabrielle Andersen Not Just Access: The Peer Food Project The food system is broken; the agriculture of the middle is disappearing and agribusiness is expanding. Supply chains are worldly, worker rights are being abused, the environment is degrading, and countries and communities suffer from obesity and malnutrition at the same time. As communities fight for their right to fresh, nutrient dense food; can urban agriculture become one resolution to this wicked problem? The Peer Food Project aims to address these issues within New York City with a multi-faceted approach by: supporting civic agriculture within the five boroughs, creating networks and linkages with existing food infrastructure, & educating communities on food choice. Cristina Handal + Troy Andrew Hallisey VAMOS en Todo Unidos: Developing inclusive and intersecting planes of living production for street food vendors in New York City The aim of this project is to achieve a culture of solidarity and inclusion among street food vendors and their surrounding community through the development of a multi-planar cooperative that links “El Garaje” —a commissary worker coop, “La Casa” —a cooperative providing affordable housing, “Cultivar” —a network of food production sites, and “El Mercado”—a consumer cooperative market. By relying on the street food vendors’ common cause and use of shared resources, VAMOS en Todo Unidos hopes to foster democratic participation and self-sustenance through alternative economic development. “ The nebulous regulations for street food vending in New York City have given way to ever-increasing and unpredictable instabilities in the daily operations of the vendors and their families. By examining the informal processes in the day-to-day operations of a street food vendor, we can determine an urban-scale response to improve their livelihoods and to equalize and elevate them as exemplar city makers.” – Cristina Handal “ The research focused on examining the urban ecological processes in economic, social and political enclaves. From this work, a program is developed that unites the best of these processes in such a way to cultivate a culture of civic mindedness and self-reliance in an ‘in’clave—a hybrid living and working urban cooperative.” – Troy Andrew Hallisey 14
RETHINK THE BLOCK Charles N. Chawalko Illuminating Illusions: Southbridge Towers and the Myths of Mitchell-Lama Privatization As New York City is facing a seemingly-perpetual housing crisis, our affordable housing systems are under attack from a variety of forces – and my home is one of the very battlefields of this struggle. Utilizing my Mitchell-Lama apartment complex – Southbridge Towers – as a case study in the dynamics of the re-development of Lower Manhattan, this research paved a path into programming an operation to fend off a potential privatization. This operation is composed of the creation of an alternative, community-oriented coop manual, a potential run for the Board of Directors, and preparing an economic analysis of the Black Book – the voted-upon document that dissolves the Mitchell-Lama. Anze Zadel Alternative Educational Processes for Transformative/Autonomous Housing and Sustainable Living Practices This project deals with the issue of affordable housing in New York City, developing alternative educational practices that related to preserving long term affordability. In partnership with the New York City Community Land Initiative which works on affordable housing advocacy, the project develops a toolkit that will help to promote and inform New York residents on importance of strategies that assure long time housing affordability. The toolkit visualizes processes related to forming a community land trust, a potential collective way for preserving long time housing affordability. The community land trust works on the principle of taking the land from the market and preventing the increase of its market value. Residents of a building are able to control the building while land is in the control of the community. This nonspeculative mechanism could potentially help preserve long-term housing affordability.
April De Simone Rethink the Block Rethink the Block is a visual and media campaign designed to evaluate what we have in both myths and facts, to explore other socially innovative models, and to help us learn how to increase the capacity to stay and integrate others in our neighborhoods.
Shirley Bucknor Showing Cause: The Effects OF Unfair Practices in the Housing and Legal System According to a study conducted by New York City Rent Guidelines Board in their 2014 Income and Affordability Study, the number of actual cases heard in Housing Court decreased by 7.8% in 2013 along with the number of nonpayment filings by 1.1%. Most logic would assume this to be positive, however, somehow the number of evictions have actually increased by 0.4%. How can the leading cause of eviction, non-payment not correlate with actual evictions? My research working alongside local organizations, lends a forensic lens into the current circumstances tenants in Flatbush, Brooklyn especially those in prewar and rent stabilized buildings are facing, the growing market demand for housing, the tactics that are being used by landlords to evict tenants through the legal system, and the issues surrounding the structure and process of housing court. Although not unique to New York, using Flatbush will serve as a controlled study for my research. As a resident of Flatbush, this projects brings to light the current issues and unobscure procedures of the housing court system.
Kaitlin Killpack Educating Spatial Practitioners
Jesseka Mae Emerick The Newtown Creek Water Imperative: Community Access to Clean Water Newtown Creek is a highly polluted water body with little public access and surrounding neighborhoods that are undergoing rapid gentrification and displacement. To implement successful interventions towards achieving community access to clean water and protect residents from displacement, the proposal has developed a ‘Fabric Map.’ The map serves as a living methodological tool for local organizations and activists by identifying connections, partnerships, redundancies and conflicts in order to strengthen the capacities and maximize efficacy towards the achievement of a sociospatial transformation at Newtown Creek. This work is developed out of theoretical, empirical and experiential research and in collaboration with Newtown Creek Alliance, North Brooklyn Boat Club, Newtown Creek Community Action Group and the STEW_MAP project, as well as multiple community players and activists.
My project aims to explore the conceived, perceived and lived space of the neighborhood encompassing the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, a plan established by various tech and real estate corporations in conjunction with the municipality to draw in new technology-based businesses in order to make money for the city and generate new jobs. By examining and bridging these three intrinsic types of spaces through urban walks imagined and implemented in partnership with high school youths—which promoted discussion, resident interaction and education of future urban activists—local residents have tools to better understand the space that they occupy, so that they can be empowered to question the dominant model of urbanization, resist the transformation and mitigate the displacement brought on by both the corporate sector and the city.
Ekaterina Levitskaya Commitment Ecologies The self-organization of people in order to be effective and stable needs a certain base – one that is based on continuity of and commitment to space. This project imagines an effective grassroots self-organization movement within the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The goal is to create spaces for commitment to a common future vision of the area.
Travers Martin “Red Doors” Red Doors utilizes “education through accessibility” as the primary tool to promptly reconnect communities to natural resources while providing the flexibility needed to sustain a variety of urban typologies. In the wake of a declining industry since the Second World War, the once active industrial periphery along Brooklyn’s waterfront, like many East Coast cities, has been left idle and polluted since the city’s economy has shifted away from manufacturing. In response, two agencies have emerged that reassign value to such forgotten landscapes; brownfield incentive programs that heavily promote real estate development, and increasing popular community gardens. Both offer limited potential. This project expands citizens’ tenure options, and deepens the evolution of cultural memory.
Caitlin Charlet Sharing the Air: Creating a Community Air Trust Clean air is a right. An empowered community can create lasting change through visual topographic impact and levels of engagement with a legal structure that would define the air in a way that regards value as being for its use in the community, rather than just as the capacity for profit. If we foreground air rights that are shared, traded and donated as a community, then the health of the community can be valued as well and levels of engagement will rippled through the urban topography. A COMMUNITY AIR TRUST is an under theorized tool and method of participatory urban planning, and imagines the city with a future that is shared among all its elements.
THEORY AS PRACTICE The Washington Metro and the Fall and Rise of American Urbanism p.22 Remaking Urban Society: Food as Infrastructure for Democracy p. 28
MA Theories of Urban Practice
THE WASHINGTON METRO AND THE FALL AND RISE OF AMERICAN URBANISM Blair Lorenzo
“No urban critic was more effective than Jane Jacobs. Her book ... became an immediate bestseller. ... Jacob’s manifesto found a sympathetic audience in many urban residents at a key time in American history.”-Frederick Gutheim, official historian of
the National Capital Planning Commission.(1)
Rosalyn Deutsche, an art historian, critic, and urbanist, has written at length on the problematic nature of public art and public space. All too often, in Deutsche’s opinion, art and space are neutered of their individual discursive qualities by existing power structures, a desire to serve the lowest common denominator, or both. For her, if space, art, or to extend her work to the case in hand, infrastructure, is to be truly democratic, truly public, it must embody ongoing contestation. Unlike Habermas, Deutsche has no preconceptions of a singular popular opinion that can be reached through rational dialogue. The ideas at hand are too powerful, the splits in opinion too great, and the balance of power too unequal for that ever to be the case. To this point, the story of Metro has encompassed a few contestations: Should transportation planning work to (re) concentrate urban life, or should it push towards dispersal? Is the automobile the way of the future, or does rail still have a role to play? What is the role of the ‘expert’ visà-vis the role of the public at large? What is the role of the government? These issues were highly contested by planners, politicians, and academics. But in becoming reality, they would by necessity affect far more than the select few in positions of relative power. (2) The MTS plan would carve canyons of concrete through the densely populated District as well as through similarly settled parts of the surrounding, suburban counties. Not everyone, however, was quite ready to accept a suburban, Above: The images highlight the dualities of the Metro - the urban Columbia Heights Station vs the nondescript parking lot of Vienna; the destruction of DC’s Southeast versus new construction looming over the Shaw neighborhood.
(1) Frederick Gutheim and Antoinette J. Lee, Worthy of the Nation: Washington, DC, from L’Enfant to the National Capital Planning Commission (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 289. (2) Rosalyn Deutsche, “The Question of Public Space,” in Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics (Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, MIT Press: 1998). (3) Zachary M. Schrag, The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). Frederick Gutheim and Antoinette J. Lee, Worthy of the Nation: Washington, DC, from L’Enfant to the National Capital Planning
expressway-driven future. Many residents, especially those of white, middle- and upper-class neighborhoods were, unsurprisingly, none too enthused at the prospect of highways in their backyards. Homes would be destroyed, communities cut in half, and noise and exhaust, it was feared, would envelop entire neighborhoods. With no local government in the District to turn to, concerned residents had little choice but to turn to organization, activism, and protest. Within months of the publication of the MTS and the routes of the proposed expressways becoming clear, residents in both the District and some old-line suburban neighborhoods began to demonstrate. Washington, DC was fast becoming home to the first of the so-called freeway revolts, large-scale, local protests over the destruction caused by building urban expressways. Soon, these protests would begin to show up in other urban centers across America, challenging the power and omniscience of the political and planning establishments.(3) In Washington, the heart of these protests was Cleveland Park, a white, middle to upper class neighborhood in the city’s Northwest quadrant. Centered on Connecticut Avenue, Cleveland Park was, and to this day retains the typology of, a streetcar suburb. The bulk of the neighborhood contains a mélange of differently sized, but relatively closely spaced, single and multifamily houses. These give way to medium density housing and, eventually, apartment buildings as one approaches the main corridor. Connecticut Ave. itself is lined with small retailers and restaurants of all sorts, accessible by broad, people-lined sidewalks. A library, post office, and apartments buildings lie interspersed amongst the stores in a model of multiple use that enables easy, pleasant walkability. Rock Creek Park, itself a creation of Olmstead and then preserved and completed by the NCPPC (National Capital Park and Planning Commission), darts in and out, occasionally touching the main street and providing a faux-natural respite from the city life only mere blocks away. It is easy to see why residents would fear destruction of the neighborhood, and particularly of Rock Creek Park, one of the proposed routes of the Northwest Freeway.(4) Independent protest movements in Cleveland Park were methodically organized by local lawyers into what would become called the Northwest Committee for Transportation Planning. Working with activist groups in other neighborhoods, they labored hard, protesting, publishing documents, and lobbying Congress and the media, attempting to make visible the destruction they perceived as imminent. And while the effort to prevent destruction drove a majority of their work, they went further, as well, Commission (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). Robert Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (New York: Vintage Books, 1975). Brian J. Cudahy, Cash, Tokens, and Transfers: A History of Urban Mass Transit in North America (New York: Fordham University Press, 1990). (4) Schrag 2006. Gutheim 2006. (5) Schrag 2006. Cudahy 1990.
attempting to shift the public discourse. For instance, they bemoaned the 1956 Interstate Act’s 90% federal financing of roads as well-intentioned but short-sighted. Because there was no equivalent federal money for transit, local planners were given a false choice between nearly free road projects or paying for expensive, increasingly unprofitable transit infrastructure alone.(5) Even more important, however, was something which went largely unsaid, but which clearly underpinned the protesters’ rhetoric. Their complaints were not mere NIMBYism; they were no happier to see another neighborhood torn apart by freeways than their own. Rather, their position had a strong undercurrent of rejection for the entire suburban project. After all, they were satisfied with their urban environment—with stores, parks, and amenities in walking distance, and being only a brief streetcar trip away from the center of the District and beyond. Why should their environment be sacrificed to secure a vision with which they did not agree? Transportation policy, plans, and technologies have always, as we have seen, been core to both the public and private fabric of the city. Previously, decisions about it had been left either to policy makers or private investors. Now, transit and its associated effects, both positive and negative, were becoming part of the democratic public sphere. Numerous people involved in the Cleveland Park freeway revolts would go on to important positions, but for the story of the Metro, none is more important than C. Darwin Stolzenbach*. Stolzenbach had been born in the Midwest, but had come of age in Washington, graduating from George Washington University. By day he was a systems analyst, an esoteric field which Merriam-Webster’s defines as, “the process of studying a procedure or business in order to identify its goals and purposes and create systems and procedures that will achieve them in an efficient way.”(6) The interdisciplinary nature of the field meant it was easy to segue his skills to his hobby and his passion, city and transportation planning. Protest, as it almost always does, had made amateur planners out of much of the neighborhood, but not only had Stolzenbach been involved in the field for far longer (over the previous few years, he had unsuccessfully tried to achieve several planning positions), his background made him almost uniquely qualified for the task. As someone who made a living observing the interactions of systems and their origins, he could see both how transportation could influence the physical and social shape of cities, as well as how the goals of Bartholomew and the other MTS (6) Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Online edition, accessed May 10, 2014, http://www. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/systems%20analysis). (7) Schrag 2006. Zachary M. Schrag, “Mapping Metro, 1955-1968: Urban, Suburban, and Metropolitan Alternatives,” Washington History (Vol. 13, No. 1, Spring/Summer, 2001, pp. 4-23). (8) Schrag 2006. Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 2003).
the history of scientific knowledge. In Kuhn’s conception, the advancement of knowledge and understanding does not simply occur at a linear rate. Rather, scientists work within a paradigm of assumptions, facts, and theories; a paradigm which not only underpins an era of thought, but provides the very questions that define the path of advancement. While growth is fairly linear within a paradigm, every once and a while an individual or group will come up with a new theory or discovery that will radically alter our understanding, significantly changing the questions we ask and the assumptions we make. There are “paradigm shifts” (a term Kuhn coined), like those of Copernicus and Galileo, Newton’s Laws of Motion, or Einstein’s Theories of Relativity: concepts which so thoroughly change the substructures of understanding that, by their implications, affect fields far outside their original scope.(10)
authors were quite different from those of the protesters. And whereas others were fixated on the negatives of the MTS report, Stolzenbach saw an opportunity. Quickly rising in the ranks of the protesters, gaining the ears of both the leaders and their followers, Stolzenbach encourage the activists to augment their narrative of neighborhood destruction through utilizing the proposed transit system as a counter narrative. Instead of automotive inevitability, this already government-sanctioned plan could be used to promote a radically different vision for what the District and its surrounding environs could be. The seemingly apolitical, technocratic ideals of Harland Bartholomew were in fact anything but: his own document could be used as proof that the shape of a city is not an inevitable outcome, but a matter of choice.(7) The protesters received a Democratic boost in 1960 with the election of John F. Kennedy**. Kennedy was (and remains) the youngest president ever elected to the office, and brought with him an air of the urbane and the cosmopolitan, perhaps best exemplified by his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy. President Kennedy grew up in both Boston and New York, and cut his political teeth as first a congressmen and then as a senator from Massachusetts, meaning he was well steeped in urban affairs***. He had also witnessed, from a distance, the destruction of Boston’s West End neighborhood, making him no stranger to the potential tragedy of “urban renewal.” He also, despite an occasional quip to the contrary, took a deep interest in the affairs of the capital city, partly as a political and monumental center, as many of his predecessors had done, but also as a place in and of itself. As but one example, the Beaux-Arts architecture of City Beautiful had remained the federal standard long after it had fallen out of architectural fashion. In much of central Washington it was hard to find a vista that did not include in it some variety of neoclassical building. Kennedy took an active role in shaking up the architectural standards of the federal government and of the city. Both to keep the city architecturally relevant as well as to keep the environment varied for residents and workers, he appointed a host of well-heeled, Modernist architects to the Commission of Fine Arts, the body which oversees all design and aesthetic concerns within the District.(8) Like many presidents eager to make their mark, Kennedy dismissed many of Eisenhower’s officials and replaced them with his own. In District-related affairs, this meant that the highway evangelists were out, and, to fill the vacuum they left, the administration turned to the next best (9) Ibid * Though his full name was Charles Darwin Stolzenbach, he almost always went by Darwin. ** Pun intended.
Above: Cleveland Park in 2014
available source: the protesters. Following the advice of the MTS report it had commissioned, in 1961 Congress acted to create the National Capital Transit Administration (or NCTA) in order to begin the process of designing and building the transit system the plan recommended. To run this new organization, Kennedy turned the establishment on its head and appointed an outsider: Darwin Stolzenbach.(9) The tenor of public discourse around urbanity was rapidly changing in the early 1960s. In his pioneering work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn attempts to understand *** Indeed, the historian Zachary Schrag keenly notes that Kennedy was the only president to have grown up in cities with subway systems. Given the substantial Kennedyfortune and the copious amounts of time spent at boarding schools and tucked away at Hyannisport, it is questionable exactly how much firsthand experience he might have had with them. Still, the very fact that he was familiar with transit and cities in general seems to have clearly influence his policies towards them.
In 1961, at almost the same time as Stolzenbach’s appointment, Jane Jacobs published her seminal Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jacobs too had made a name for herself with freeway protests, and like the Cleveland Park activists, her work was a scathing critique of current practice. But it was also more: in the field of urban planning, Jacobs’ work was a Kuhn-ian paradigm shift. In copious detail, she saws away at the intellectual pillars and assumptions that had held up the field prior, while at the same time artfully outlining a new framework of understanding. Instead of viewing urban form as a problem, she seeks out its strengths. Instead of treating the city as an architectural whole, Jacobs focuses on the interactions between the people and businesses within it, and how a city’s structures not only affect these interactions, but how they can enable them. Jacobs’ work turned the historical assumptions that had driven planning for a century or more on their head: maybe density wasn’t a problem, but a benefit; maybe not all green spaces are universally good; and maybe mixing uses has positive benefits for urban dwellers. She savages the urban renewal projects of post-war America not only as functional and aesthetic failures (though clearly, in her view, they were), but as forms of “catastrophic capital,” massive changes that rip and stretch the fabric of the city almost to a breaking point. At the same time, even in her darkest critiques, Jacobs is deeply optimistic about the future of urban spaces, hanging on to the belief that if planners and governments would simply tone down destructive changes, allow direct community involvement, and focus on a different set of fundamentals, cities would thrive.(11) (10) Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press: 2012). (11) Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. (New York: Vintage Books, 1961). Anthony Flint, Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City (New York: Random House, 2009). Gutheim 2006.
Above: Jane Jacobs (11)
Jane Jacobs took a conflict that was based on narratives of opposition and destruction and, by examining and reevaluating their epistemological and historical underpinnings, created a positive and generative mode of understanding. Within the year, the Cleveland Park protesters, Stolzenbach’s NCTA, and even the Administration would begin to echo both Jacobs’ language and the newfound respect for the urban mode of life it brought with it. In 1962, President Kennedy wrote to Congress that, ”To conserve and enhance values in existing urban areas is essential. But at least as important are steps to promote economic efficiency and livability in areas of future development. ... The ways that people and goods can be moved in these areas will have a major influence on their structure, on the efficiency of their economy, and on the availability for social and cultural opportunities they can offer their citizens. Our national welfare therefore requires the provision of good urban transportation, with the properly balanced use of private vehicles and modern mass transport to help shape as well as serve urban growth.”(13) The shift from the technocratic ideals of Harland Bartholomew is clear: even at the highest levels it was being recognized that the shape of the city is not an inevitable outcome, but a matter of choice.(14) Kennedy took action to back up those words. He pushed for the passage of Urban Mass Transit Act, which, though it would not come close in either absolute dollars spent, nor would it approach the 90% contribution promised by the Interstate Highway Act, would allow for federal financing of urban mass transportation systems*. Perhaps more strikingly, in 1962, he appointed Elizabeth Rowe, a (12) Wikipedia contributors, “Mrs. Jane Jacobs, chairman of the Comm. to save the West Village holds up documentary evidence at press conference at Lions Head Restaurant at Hudson & Charles Sts.,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (Accessed December 8, 2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jane_Jacobs.jpg). (13) John F. Kennedy, “Special Message to the Congress on Transportation,” April 5, 1962 (The Public Papers of President John F. Kennedy 1962: 129). (14) Schrag 2001, 2006. Gutheim 2006.
Cleveland Park resident and alumna of the protests, as chair of the NCPC. In some ways, Rowe can be seen as the District’s analogue to Jacobs. A lifelong Washingtonian, Rowe had cut her teeth on the DC Auditorium Commission, a body which was in charge of what would later be known as the Kennedy Center. The course of her work led her to see the changes being wrought on the banks of the Potomac and in Washington’s Southwest, and she was aghast at both the destruction and the ugly, inhuman landscapes of highways, parking lots, and modernist boxes that were taking shape. Rowe would spend her career at the NCPC striving to convince the other committee members to see the city as a collection of neighborhoods, and would fighting for historic preservation, for plans that embraced urbanity and livability, and against what she saw as the, “vertical ice-tray school of architecture,”(15) that is, high rise Modernism**.(16) Meanwhile, Stolzenbach and the NCTA were doing their part to help ensure Washington’s urbanity via transportation. One thing Stolzenbach shared with his predecessor Bartholomew was a desire to make the system as attractive as possible. For Bartholomew, the idea was simple: the more attractive the system was, the easier job it would have of attracting potential riders from their cars. Stolzenbach shared this goal, but added more to it. The NCTA recognized early on that Metro stations were to be some of Washington’s most important public spaces, and as such, they needed to be physically attractive and inviting. There were strong fears that any system which
Above: Harry Weese’s Stations (15) Gutheim 2006, 296. (16) Gutheim 2006. Schrag 2006. Cudahy 1990. * Though pushed for by Kennedy, the UMTA would not pass until 1964, after his death. As an additional note, UMTA allowed Metro to use the 2/3rds federal contribution proposed by Bartholomew, a nod to the power of having an idea officially established in the public discourse. Other and later projects would get far less.
resembled the New York City subway of the era, dark, confined, and graffiti covered, would be disastrous for the health of both the system and the city alike. To accomplish this, rather than follow the usual transportation project paradigm of hiring an engineer to build the system and an architect to decorate the details, Stolzenbach and the NCTA opted to bring in both parties as coequal partners from the beginning. The NCTA’s public request for designs mimicked both Stolzenbach’s background and the words of Jacobs: they wanted an architect who understood that they were designing a comprehensive system of moving people, and that the system was to be first and foremost designed around human parameters and human needs. This humanistic focus is very much characteristic of the urbanist turn represented by Jacobs.(17) The architect they selected, Harry Weese, sought to embody these ideals. He set out to design spaces which would not only be symbolically resonant, but which would fit in with existing federal architecture; spaces which could not only handle massive amounts of people, but which would make these people comfortable. Weese and his team traveled the world studying various subway systems and analyzing how each was utilized, mimicking the contemporaneous sociological work of William H. Whyte on public plazas. Weese envisioned the system as an extension of the street. It was to be freely accessible and was to allow for easy movement, yet would also provide spaces of repose and comfort. The system would function as well as possible both as an architectural and as an urban space.(18) Even Weese’s work, however, could not escape the strange duality of designing for a shifting public need whilst being beholden to the aims of other, more traditionalist, experts. As noted, all federal architecture in the capital had to be approved by the Commission of Fine Arts. Kennedy, in order to keep the District and the CFA relevant, had appointed such Modernist luminaries as Gordon Bunshaft and Eero Saarinen, men who were, to put it very mildly, very selfassured and determined to have their say. They all also readily admitted that none of them regularly rode a subway. Though the final design, the famous coffered barrels, was all Weese’s, he had originally toned the plan down to save on cost and improve the ease of construction. With no need to worry about anything as base as the cost or the art of building, the CFA ordered the return of the vaults. Even with its new members, the CFA’s concern remained rooted in the monumentality of the capital instead of the needs of local residents. They cared far more about the consistency and iconography of the system, and left the “minor” concerns ** It is both interesting and sad to note how, in Frederick Gutheim, in his official history of the National Capital Planning Commission, spends but a few paragraphs touching on Rowe’s tenure before continuing with descriptions of massive plans and projects that came before and after. It seems clear that board of the time, primarily made up of members of the old planning guard, were not readily receptive to such a dramatic change in direction and priority.
of its functionality to Weese. For better and for worse, an unelected and unaccountable board had again shaped the future of Washington’s public realm, with a direct cost to the taxpayer.(19) This fledgling urbanist narrative, however, was hardly universal: it was highly contested. Suburbs, not only around the District, but in the country as a whole, were still exploding in population, often at the expense of the older, urban cores they surrounded or, in the case of the Sunbelt, forming a whole new type of metropolis. Like all paradigm shifts, particularly those in the realms of social science and human culture, where facts and evidence are rarely clear-cut, the uptake of the urban ideal was not, nor would it ever be, immediate, inevitable, or bloodless. The NCTA still has to contend with the Maryland, Virginia, and District of Columbia Departments of Transportation, the latter of which was still under the heavy influence of the Army Corps of Engineers, all of whom were still hell-bent on expressways. Stolzenbach would soon demonstrate the costs and potential pitfalls of non-Habermasian contested discourse.(20)
Above: Harry Weese’s Stations
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Blair Lorenzo is an urbanist, writer, and lifelong student of cities and urbanity. Currently, she is writing a book on the history of the American city and its relationship to transportation, as well as launching a website for her urbanist writings at http://www.thefoxandthecity.com/.
(17) Schrag 2006. (18) Schrag 2006. Stanley Allan, For the Glory of Washington (Harry Weese Associates, 1994). William H. Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (New York: Project for Public Spaces, 1980). Stanley Allan, “A man of many words and works, 1915-1998,” Inland Architect (113/1, 1999, p48-64). (19) Schrag 2006. Allan 1994. Allan 1998. (20) Schrag 2006.
REMAKING URBAN SOCIETY: GARDENS AS INFRASTRUCTURE FOR DEMOCRACY Matt DelSesto
Gardens can and must grow more than food. They can also generate new possibilities to engage critical issues of twenty ¼rst century cities, from persistent inequality to community breakdown and mass incarceration. Everywhere it seems as if our cities are becoming more green and sustainable. Vacant lots are transforming into gardens, governments are advancing sustainability agendas, and businesses are promoting organic foods. Topics like urban agriculture are popular for research, where the list of benefits that local food and urban gardens generate grows daily. Foundations offer funding for sustainability projects, and community organizations eagerly respond. At the center of this sustainability wave is the food system—the trendy organic restaurants, urban gardens, and farmers markets that take on noticeable material forms in cities. From the context of the rising tide of sustainability, this thesis investigates the transformative potential of food and urban gardens for our cities. The main contention of this thesis is that all of the energy around the green initiatives and food movement is failing to fundamentally improve the larger structures that serve our daily lives. The globalizing industrial food infrastructure has remained basically unchanged. Gardens and farmers markets function as ornaments, hobbies, and fringe interventions that fail to fulfill their potential as they remain in the shadow of larger institutions that dominate society. Small-scale regional farming networks are often left powerless to compete with large systems management
Above: This image depicts ownership of popular food brands. While there are thousands of brands, most of these can be traced back to 10 companies. Urban agriculture organizations tend to remain marginal and fringe groups in the shadows of this larger food industry, which stocks shelves with prepackaged consumer products and ignores the democratic possibilities inherent in the cultivation of gardens. Image source: Convergence Alimentaire
(1) Robert Reich, Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy, and How to Fix It (New York: Vintage Books, 2012). See also, Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It, (New York: Random, 2004). (2) Bruce Western, Punishment and Inequality in America (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006).
technologies that global agriculture businesses are increasingly mastering. Concentration of ownership in the food system limits local participation and increases inequality in urban society, which has enormous personal and economic costs.(1) In this context, gardens can and must grow more than food. They can also generate new possibilities to engage critical issues of twenty first century cities, from persistent inequality to community breakdown and mass incarceration. For example, prisons cost the United States nearly 80 billion dollars per year, not including the related costs in health care, social services, and criminal justice to manage this growing system. In addition to research highlighting the unequal application of punishment in America, prisoners are one of the most marginalized populations in American society. They are typically invisible to mainstream American culture, even as their lives are caught up in turmoil across generations.(2) There is talk of releasing low-risk offenders to cut costs and balance budgets, but how do we begin to even to address the tens-of-millions of lives that are caught up in our spiraling criminal justice system? Could food be a pathway to citizenship for ex-offenders? In contrast to criminal punishment that divides and fragments, food is something that has the potential to unite us all and increase opportunities to strengthen democracy. We all eat several times each day, and most people have personal and cultural experiences with food that animate their daily lives. A single carrot contains potentially dozens of relationships in its journey from seed to fork. In each of these relationships there is an opportunity to either strengthen democracy or keep food comfortably as a prepackaged consumer product. Innovative gardening and food practices are already emerging in many diverse contexts, and they are evidence that food and gardens are opportunities to democratically remake urban society. Ultimately these emerging practices for the remaking urban society reveal how gardens can cultivate citizenship, generate multiple pathways, and foster infrastructure for democracy. An investigation of case studies on later pages will illuminate fields of action that can advance these basic operations to construct more effective and empowering garden practices for cities of the 21st century.
(3) Urban theorists Henri Lefebvre and now Neil Brenner and colleagues have articulated this as the concept of “Planetary Urbanization” (that there is no region of the Earth that has not been subjected to the forces of human urbanization). In the field of American Studies, Henry Nash Smith and Leo Marx also have explored this on the American scale, in their fascinating and significant work on the closing of the American frontier and the “pastoral ideal” in American culture. See for example Henry Nash Smith’s Virgin Land (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), or Leo Marx’s The Machine in the Garden (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967).
Food as an infrastructure for democracy (as case studies such as The Food Project will demonstrate) generates multiple pathways from seed to fork.(6) The fact that there are multiple pathways means that the local economy is more diverse and more people have opportunities to participate in their community. Participation in the everyday practices of growing and distributing food makes society more democratic. Because of their location in densely populated neighborhoods, urban garden spaces possess enormous possibilities to increase strong social relationships that support everyday workings of the city and potentially create many different kinds of benefits from access to healthy food, food security, job growth, and increased biodiversity.(7)
3- Fostering infrastructure for democracy The word infrastructure often invokes complex systems and massive engineering projects because infrastructure is typically thought of as how people and goods get from “Point A” to “Point B”—a network for distribution and mobility or a supply chain. In this large engineering perspective of infrastructure, the social dimensions of food infrastructure to remain under-explored. Above: East New York Farms keeps a beehive in one of their major learning gardens. Bees serve as key pollinators for local crops and as a strategy to educate the community about the food system. The energy of a bee hive serves as a valuable symbol for a kind of urban citizenship that is about the aggregation resources and collaborative development of a local environment. Image Source: Andria via Creative Commons
1- Cultivating citizenship The cultivation of food offers an opportunity to also cultivate the next generation of urban citizens. To say that a garden cultivates citizenship while it also cultivates carrots is a concept that dates back to the Jeffersonian vision for a nation of virtuous farmers. The difference is that Jefferson’s America—thousands of miles of a seemingly open “frontier”—is no longer a reality. America is an urban nation in an urbanizing world, meaning that for the most part we no longer live apart on separate plots of land; we live geographically clustered together. For better and for worse, the air and land we inhabit is not vacant anywhere on this planet; it is crowded and congested. Whether or not it ever was a reality, now it is overwhelmingly clear that there is no such thing as unspoiled nature. There is no idyllic pastoral garden isolated from the real effects of urbanization.(3)
production of citizenship, gardens become civic actions that allow people to connect more deeply to the land and their neighbors while they become a part of the urban community. This is the beginning of a more engaged and empowered urban citizenship.(5)
2- Creating multiple pathways
Research on the following pages suggests that infrastructure is a set of social resources and relationships (as a part of the garden cultivation process) that can foster democracy. Therefore, infrastructure is both constraining and enabling, but it never operates outside of daily practices. Through our everyday routines (like watering a garden or shopping in a particular store) we constitute the infrastructures of society.(8) For example, the creation of everyday routines or practices is especially evident in the culture of stewardship that The Food Project has created among Boston youth.
The garden that could cultivate citizenship today is the urban garden, at the nexus of the inhabited land and the social structures of urban society.(4) As a site for the
In modern industrial society, food infrastructure has been increasingly streamlined through large-scale farming, hyper-specialization of regions, preprogrammed longdistance distribution, and intensified management of land with the targeted application of labor, fertilizers, and technology. In general this kind of infrastructure creates and reinforces one single pathway for the distribution of food—a pathway owned and managed by relatively few food corporations. This alienates us from the land and the food we eat, reducing economic opportunities and decreasing participation in urban society; prepackaged and wrapped products are presented in long supermarket aisles, as food remains a consumer product.
Like the work of cultivating of a garden, democracy is an ongoing process. This process can only be sustained through the constant production of spaces and infrastructures that will allow the project of democracy to continue into the next season. Cultivating food—as an infrastructure for democracy—is messy, complex, and political field of action that is an ongoing process. There are many challenges and constraints, yet it is precisely in these challenges that urban society can be remade. These case studies point us away from grand theories of democracy and towards the everyday practices of democracy that generate valuable social networks
(4) John Brinkerhoff Jackson describes the concept of the political and inhabited landscapes in his book, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), especially the essay “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes.” (5) This thesis refers to the urban citizenship of democracy as distinct from citizenship of a nation state. Urban citizenship is an ongoing process of participation in the making of urban society. For more on this distinction see James Holston and Arjun Appadurai, “Cities and Citizenship,” Public Culture, winter 1996, volume 8, issue 2: 187-204.
(6) Although this idea of single versus multiple pathways is common in systems thinking, Brian Walker and David Salt’s explanation of pathways and complexity in Resilience Thinking: Sustaining People and Ecosystems in a Changing World (Washington DC: Island Press, 2006) has been especially relevant to the “multiple pathways” framing of this thesis. (7) See recent research on Urban Agriculture in New York City: “Five Borough Farm,” Design Trust for Public Space, accessed April 2014 at fiveboroughfarm.org/impact
(8) This understanding of infrastructure is relational in the sense that infrastructure is not taken to mean something that operates externally from the individuals who use it; there is no dualism between the so-called “user” and the infrastructure itself. See Bret M. Frischmann, Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). Similarly, Anthony Giddens refers to social structure in a similar way with what he calls the “duality of structure” in his brilliant articulation of contemporary social theory, The Constitution of Society (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 1984).
above: The Food Project empowers young people to transform the neighborhood ecology and economy, through urban gardens, farms, markets, and the build-a-bed program that builds raised beds and engages community members in local food practices. The Food Project also reveals the multiple pathways to social transformation, ecological renewal, and urban democracy. Image source: The Food Project
and cultural meanings.(9) These practices are currently advanced through the tireless work of relatively marginal organizations. For example, the GreenHouse program works in the New York City jail with a population that is normally considered challenging and high-risk. Instead of limiting the participation of these students who are incarcerated or lamenting the strict constraints of a correctional environment, the instructors work with the prisoners as horticulturalists and landscape architects who have a significant role in the ongoing design the garden. In combination with multi-layered education programming, this creates the possibility that students might return to society as empowered citizens. What if the GreenHouse program and similar organizations could be supported as critical producers of the infrastructure for democracy?
(9) A kind of infrastructure for the next social compact: see “Infrastructure for the New Social Compact” (1995) by William Morrish and Catherine Brown, compiled in the design reader Writing Urbanism (New York: Routledge, 2008).
Urban gardens, democracy, and the good food revolution “In order to build a new food system, we’re going to need a world without fences... we’re going to need a new generation of farmers.”(10)
also need “a new generation of farmers”—a generation that does not look like the Jeffersonian image of a yeoman farmer in America’s romanticized pastoral landscape. This next generation of farmers must be city-makers, who participate in the creation of a new kind of urban commons. Students who spend their mornings in classes and their afternoons on the local farm, inmates who remediate soil and grow food on Rikers Island, people who are have been unemployed and homeless delivering palates of tomatoes to a local restaurant.
Will Allen’s work and story has become legendary in the food and sustainability movement of the 21st century, and it provides an worthwhile introduction to the connection between gardens and democracy. Allen is making an effort to extend freedom, openness and possibility to all people in urban society through gardening and farming.
Remaking urban society: Three case studies as fields of action
The son of a sharecropper, Allen abandoned his farming roots to pursue a basketball career, and later to work in corporate sales and marketing. In his recent book, The Good Food Revolution, Allen recounts driving past a vacant lot Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and feeling encouraged to turn his gardening hobby into a full time project. Eventually this meant founding the organization “Growing Power” which works to produce small and large-scale solutions to the lack of access to affordable fresh foods in American cities.
This thesis builds on the current food and garden movement through three case studies that seek to understand the radically democratic processes that are necessary for the governance and daily management of gardens. In order to imagine food and gardens as a democratic process this thesis investigates the history and context of these organizations while proposing actions and strategies to generate a more effective and empowering urban food infrastructure for democracy:
Today, Allen is sowing the seeds of a new kind of infrastructure for democracy: training young people to be competent growing their own food, teaching nutrition classes to promote healthy eating and general wellbeing, aggregating locally sourced food that will be affordable to the poorest urban communities, and experimenting with new strategies for intensive organic agriculture. This is a large-scale effort to involve residents in the remaking of urban society. Growing Power gives a taste of how food can create collective capacity for a neighborhood to promote wellbeing while also cultivating a local culture of stewardship for land and people.
(1) The Food Project in Boston, (2) East New York Farms in New York City, (3) The GreenHouse Program in New York City.
For this new food system, Allen tells us that we will need “a world without fences.” A world without fences requires the assembly of currently fragmented and specialized disciplines around urgent food issues, in ways that might transform the food system: for example the unification of hunger relief organizations, alternative growing methods that do not rely on the industrial food system, farmers markets, culinary institutes, and environmental education programs. And there is further significance of “a world without fences”: gardens can be an infrastructure for democracy that strengthens public realm and community land access in an age of mass privatization. This is not simply a matter of more public land for growing food. We (10) This thesis is inspired by Will Allen’s story as he presents it in The Good Food Revolution (New York: Penguin Press, 2012). The quote is drawn from page 236 where he explains the idea of a “world without fences” based on his work with community gardeners and urban farmers.
These case studies were selected because they demonstrate, in very practical everyday terms, how gardens are a significant opportunity to foster democracy. Through participation in the process of growing food, the people involved in these case studies are beginning to take ownership of their immediate environment, even when excluded from formalized municipal government systems (as the ENY gardeners have done for decades). A garden also requires strengthening of social relationships to manage the constant design and cultivation of the physical space on a day-to-day basis. The case studies presented here also begin to define how gardens might be cultivated as an infrastructure for democracy, which points us beyond the current industrial food system and towards the smaller and unlikely organizations that are empowering people to participate in the remaking of urban society. The proposition that, together, these case studies point toward the remaking of urban society is meant to be a hopeful articulation of the impressive tactics that people have been implementing to feed their neighbors, even when they face astoundingly challenging circumstances.
Of course these organizations are not alone. In this particular historical moment there is growing awareness of food and health among activist groups, governmental entities, and non-profits, and businesses. There is an enormous opportunity to gather this energy together for operationalizing practices to cultivate healthier cities and active citizenship for all.
If we can begin to identify where organizations are cultivating food as an infrastructure for democracy, businesses and governments can support and expand these emerging efforts. It is this growing networked movement of organizations that are beginning to cultivate the infrastructure for democracy, and could ultimately remake urban society.
Above: This image depicts urban gardeners at work as part of the Rikers Island GreenHouse program in New York City. At a jail complex known mostly for its concrete and barbed-wire, the garden’s multi-layered therapeutic educational, and vocational programing reveals the kind of creativity and long term commitment necessary to make a more empowering and democratic urban society for all residents. Image source: Lindsay Morris
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Matt DelSesto is an urban activist and scholar-practitioner who completed the MA in Theories of Urban Practice program at Parsons with honors. For the past six years he has cultivated and researched urban gardens in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Matt has most recently conducted research with NYC-based land-access-advocacy organization 596 Acres and supported ongoing garden education programs with The Horticultural Society of New York. He currently teaches courses in urban agriculture and sustainable systems at Parsons. 31
COMMON PRAXIS Economy of Ethics: Emergent Cooperation Across Diverse Urban Ecologies p.36
MS Design and Urban Ecologies
ECONOMY OF ETHICS: EMERGENT COOPERATION ACROSS DIVERSE URBAN ECOLOGIES Braden Crooks
“This lot is like a living room. We have lots of social events here. My friends come by. Last July I had my 50th birthday party here. It was sold to a developer but the owner said I could stay for a bit, and use the lot. Everything here is going to change. It is very difficult here now. White people buy everything and the Latino and Black people move. People move to North Carolina, Buffalo, looking for a better life. I think I’ll be here for one year more, then maybe I will move upstate or maybe back to my country. Everything will be different in 4-5 years” -Francisco from Bushwick
Some landlords offer to pay for flights to Puerto Rico, Florida, or wherever, just to get their tenants to leave. They’ll buy tenants out with a lump sum, or the landlords will tear up the floor, turn off the heat, and make it unbearable to stay. Others can simply raise the rent until it’s unaffordable. Of course, most defend the property right to charge what you can for rent, or do what you will with your property. Either way, the tenant has got to go. Shouldn’t that be the proprietor’s right? Doesn’t the existence of this right mean we collectively agree they are entitled to such agency? The role of a landlord is ancient, and their history with tenants, or sharecroppers, or commoners has had, to say the least, a tumultuous past. Tenancy is plainly the situation of The Commons, our life-support system, during enclosure. The interests of the landlord and their tenant are in historic contradiction. Although this contradiction has waxed and waned over time, rising rents and sinking wages have put the landlord-tenants conflict on a waxing trajectory. Something’s got to give. The daily life of millions of tenants takes place within the properties of another. When landlords disrupt tenancy, they dislocate the tenant’s life. As the Chief of Staff at Empire State Development, New York State’s real estate and economic development agency, confirmed with me, we have a housing affordability crisis. Of course, no one in New York would be surprised to hear this statement. It is said all the time. And yet not even the head of the state’s economic development agency feels they have much agency over the crisis. At the same time the property right seems indisputable, few deny that whole communities of people are being disrupted through what can only be the exercising of it. Likewise, few would dispute the right of each person to their own life. For most tenants, this right ends at the tip of their nose. But life extends out from our person, and it takes place. If people cannot plan to stay in place, as Francisco says, “everything will be different.” He is, unwillingly, planning to leave. Everything in his life will change, from the home he keeps, the job he has, to the community he helps to make. The underbelly of urban transformation has long been the serial displacement of people from their own daily life, and the places of that life: socio-spatial territory in which people have history and resources. But why is the agency to choose the course of our life so systematically removed from the tenant class, when at the same time it is so emphatically guaranteed as a universal right? (1) Lefebvre, H. (1968) The Right to the City. In: Kofman, E. and Lebas, E. (eds.)(1996) Writings on Cities: Henri Lefebvre 1901-1991. Pp. 147-159 Lefebvre begins perhaps his most famous piece of writing with essentially a description of how one becomes entangled and associated with space. These energies and needs, both physical and social, tie us up in the city, and are the source of our Right to the City. The co-production of the city gives us the right, according to Lefebvre, to the city as he sees it: an urban centrality to a kind of in-common production of collective power and energy.
When an apartment is disassociated from people, the property rights over this space have nothing to do with the life that takes place there. The exercise of the property right itself can have no mention of its relationship to (or dare I say over) other people. These are treated as separate conversations, as if that life wouldn’t be different somewhere else, or as if that space isn’t participating in that life in some way. We don’t speak in these entangled relationships, and yet we must admit that the relationship with our home creates our daily life. This contradiction among rights exists so long as we don’t associate ourselves with the necessary places and relationships that are a part of our personhood. With this disassociation, the space could never be understood as a place existing in-common, or where two or more lives become entangled (1). This cognitive dissonance is necessary for the current housing crisis. Nonetheless, our being tied up with places is a reality of our interrelated existence; an “inescapable ecology,” as William Morrish would put it (2). Relational notions associate places with the lives they facilitate, which is to shift the crux of the discussion from one of property to one about people: in this case the tenant and the landlord. This association is familiar (3). A home is different from a house, because a home is mentally associated with people. But this kind of sentimentality doesn’t hold much weight in the property negotiation between the landlord and tenant. Who can negotiate this contract using the esoteric notion of an entangled life and associated space? Every edge and wall of the city is a line around the institution of property, and the tenant has no home. With or without recognition, this association entangles the lives of individual people and the communities they form as in-common places. We become associated, and this becomes a common identity. This produces a “we.” If we can admit people are entangled with space through the relationships of daily life, weaving an urban fabric and a commons, then the right to self-determine their life gives them rights over these spaces. But this entanglement is denied as speculative real estate pushes us out of our homes and neighborhoods, and thus encloses on our life. The power of association is submitted to market forces that transform neighborhoods, disassociating them from their incommon identities, and presenting them as a consumable object. As individuals move in, they are exercising their right to do so in their own search for affordable housing. Of course, plenty of us don’t see the contradiction in this process. (2) Morrish, W. R. and Brown, K. R. (1995) Infrastructure for the New Social Compact. In: Kelbaugh, D. and McCullough, K. (Eds.) (2008) Writing Urbanism. Routledge. Pp. 138-154 Morrish and Brown demystify infrastructure by changing the view. Rather than these unsightly necessities being hidden out of sight, the authors reorient our understanding to put them in the front yard. As we would later learn from Morrish, our reliance on these infrastructures is inescapable. Without being visible, these life support systems are being neglected by society. But they nonetheless represent a social compact of inter-reliance and coordination.
Planning to stay. ou t
URSO U URS UR RS R SO S O LIBRE LIB IBR IB BR B RE
TENANTS TS RIGHTS
ANTI-DIS SPLACEMENT PLACEMENT NT visual elements
1. Francisco’s story 2. Story bank diagram 3. “planning to stay” collage 4. Story Bank process titles
Gather story y team
Gentrification and displacement are most often discussed at the scale of a community. In this in-common place, the ecologies of relationships that sustain daily life are even more pronounced, and even more vulnerable. The familiar community is best understood as an ongoing and networking relationship, which is ruptured and can be destroyed by displacement and expropriation. The attrition of gentrification, which moves apartment-by-apartment and building-by-building, erodes the constituency of the community relationship until its ecology is broken. In some ways, the fight against gentrification today is a continuation of the community-empowerment movement that began in grass-roots opposition to older programs of urban displacement. The fifty-year history of the Cooper Square Committee on the Lower East Side, its successful creation of an alternative urban renewal plan and participation in the campaign that stopped the Lower
Co-create pub p
Manhattan Expressway marked a shift in consciousness for the city. The people fought Planned Shrinkage, in which poor neighborhoods were simply cut off from city resources because they were ‘dying.’ Redlining and Blockbusting, also forcibly protested, draw close racial and class parallels to the current real estate push to “Greenline” neighborhoods with gentrification. The Cross-Bronx Expressway, which was built, displaced tens of thousands with its initial cut through the city. Just as importantly, it disassembled the relationships that it sliced between, and contributed to the unraveling of the urban fabric in that place. Rather than a ‘natural’ emptying out, multiple city programs devised by many actors public and private, made for an unraveling that brought swaths of New York close to a breaking point: a mass extinction that reveals at once the ecological complexity and the disempowered
(3) Lefebvre, H. (1974/1991) The production of space. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991. Pp. 1-67. In Lefebvre’s “Production of Space,” he lays out a clear case for the social production of space. In this way, space does not have characteristics intrinsic to itself (public, private) but only has socially produced characteristics that are based between different people. This relational notion of space breaks down the objectification of spaces to explain more accurately the way in which they become associated with a private or public existence, however that may be defined by those involved by the space.
blic procession p
Anti-Displacement Procession p
Planning g to stay. y
contingency of the living city. For a time, now hard to imagine, the city burned. The result was disease, located in human bodies but produced in the relational space that entangle one’s person with urban life. The spread of AIDS, the crack epidemic, epidemic violence, fires and psychological trauma have all been empirically connected to the plagues of dislocation that have defined decades of urban processes (4). When forcibly displaced, the loss of social fabric reproduces what Mindy Fullilove calls “Root Shock,” in which our stripped away lives, history and access to resources produces lasting physical, social and psychological damage. The necessity of our entanglement with community and the city is inescapable: to deny this is a violence that lasts into future generations, who live on to condemn it. We condemn Redlining while we live with and participate in Greenlining –but forced displacement repeats.
In New York, opposition to mass displacement swelled in the 1960s and 70s until massive changes were made to the land use decision-making process. These events led to the creation of the Community District, its Community Board, and the first attempt to give sovereignty over land use to the people who lived there. In retrospect, even the idea of community-scale political power was a profound intervention in the processes of this top-down city. There was a collective recognition that the community was and is associated with space and entitled to act in selfpreservation: that it had rights, and more so, agency. But as many New Yorkers know, this is unfinished business. The community is not a known entity, but a nuanced and esoteric relationship. It became a functioning reality of urban governance nonetheless. And yet the Community Board as an entity hasn’t been able to convey this networking. The city backtracked, and the boards are only advisory and appointed. Many do terrific work.
(4) Fullilove, Mindy. (2004) Root Shock: How tearing up urban neighborhoods hurts America and what we can do about it. Random House, 2004. Mindy studies the effects of urban renewal on black neighborhoods across the country, conclusively showing the “root shock” displacement had on the people of those places. As highways and public works made reasons to bulldoze an estimated 1,600 communities across America, the trauma of losing one’s “roots” was felt in a series of epidemics concentrated in communities of color. In discussions with our group, Common Praxis, we
have linked this body-mind- community connection to the commons. If we are entangled in a common life support system, it only makes sense that our forced displacement from these places would result in physical and psychological effects that last a lifetime. .
Tenancy is plainly the situation of The Commons, our life-support system, during enclosure. The interests of the landlord and their tenant are in historic contradiction. Although this contradiction has waxed and waned over time, rising rents and sinking wages have put the landlord-tenants conflict on a waxing trajectory. Something’s got to give. Many groan at the mention of them. A district is an unnatural representation of the entangled necessities of living: the inescapable in-common relationships that are now coming into focus. They appear, at a certain scale, like forces of nature. The Community Board is allowed to speak of the highway as deliberate plan for land use, but is at a loss for words when we ask about these Urban Ecologies: the necessary fabrics of urban living the highway had unraveled. And so the city hardly can imagine how to deal with gentrification. The displacement caused by gentrification requires us to reconcile the scale of a community with the life of the tenant, and consider the complexity of this relationship. Many aspects of gentrification are internal to the community. The community too is a space for conflict and negotiation; it is not simple, and not straightforward or singular (5). And yet this milieu is where the shifting scales of the city can be understood. It is the domain of agency for everyone from the tenant and the community board to the chief of economic development: where the affordability crisis is produced and resisted.
(5) Fraser, N. (1990) Rethinking the public sphere. In: Calhoun, Craig (Ed.) (1992) Habermas and the Public Sphere. MIT Press. Pp. 56-78. Nancy Fraser makes an enormous leap forward in her essay “Rethinking the Public Sphere.” Rather than there being one public, oriented around creating a consensus, Nancy shows us that there are in fact multiple publics, all of whom are co-creating their own discourse. When we realize this complex reality, the creation of a larger nation or public becomes one where negotiation, agonistic conflict and diversity are the operating
In displacement we find a clash of the property right and personhood. But we also find the collective agency of a community if the tenant is entangled with the city. One scale of agency begets another. Without the tenant having agency over the spaces of their daily life, the community has no right to self-preservation. This collective negotiation, crossing scales, is where we begin to consider this situation as a commons during enclosure. There is a mesh of daily lives, co-creating each other, making interdependencies and threatened with the crisis of serial forced displacement. If we are all inescapably networked, then we all must negotiate these entanglements on common ground. Because they are entangled with the places they live, the right of self- determination for a community extends in and out of every apartment if so invited. The granular force of gentrification’s displacement confirms this necessity when it too enters in, and there in the home it encounters the community it will push out. The collective must match the agency of property rights in that space, not necessarily to obliterate them but to negotiate their terms on the basis of the necessities of daily life. The grass-roots resistance to serial forced displacement continues to build agency for negotiating our in-common lives and the lived contradictions of housing. For many it means collective tenure. Co-ops, Mutual Housing Associations, Community Land Trusts and collective ownership has surged to the forefront of the housing movement –often thought of as commons institutions. Complimenting this inevitability, the tenants’ rights movement is resurgent. Existing tenants require agency to negotiate the terms of their own tenure in such a way as to have rights to their own entangled life, and therefore do so in relation to each other as a community. This citywide negotiation of multiple agencies bubbles forward as both the personal and collective commoning right, capable of resolving the contradiction of tenancy. Only when we can guarantee the flow of agency can we say we are associated with our city, and that we are, in fact, planning to stay. So a first task becomes to associate people with the places in which the course of daily life becomes entangled, and then with each other. This must become visible. The process of making visible the otherwise seemingly immaterial relationships of the city is the beginning of reconstituting of the incommon as a negotiable force (6). These acts of solidarity are unique to each place, and each relationship. As they are capable of producing trust and affinity, they can only be co-created by those who these relationships involve. Performing this task in a way procedures. In order to have a real democracy, then, everyone needs to stand on common ground, where all voices are legitimized.
that can be replicated and mirrored is, nonetheless, also a facilitation of broader conversations outside of these intimate spaces and between them. The performance of making these relationships visible will have resonance if it can do both. With the story bank project, the first act is to document in some way the life that takes place in an apartment, neighborhood, or like Francisco, in an “living room” lot. Then the task becomes associating that person, and their story, with the space in a meaningful way. A communitywide experience of these stories in the places they were told is led as a capstone event to the creation of the story bank, in such a way that it may lead to the production of a “we.” But from that point forward, the making and remaking of the relationships of daily life must become also and organizing force capable of generating the common ground necessary for negotiation. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, we are beginning to see this community-wide negotiation take place. Protest marches have led from apartments to the offices of landlords. Rent strikes are ongoing in buildings where deliberate damage to the structure has forced tenants to live in a homeless shelter for months. City officials are participating, pushing the weight of these public forces into the situation on the side of tenants. Still, landlords habitually don’t recognize these efforts as legitimate. More often, they are only able to perceive their own rights over their property as the sovereign force of these spaces. The significance of the recognition of the tenant as a human being, with personhood that takes place, among some landlords, and the total abuse and disdain of this reality by other landlords makes wholly tangible difference. But this acknowledgment cannot be guaranteed or properly enforced without community power capable of negotiating on collective terms, and acting under the knowledge that these homes are productive spaces in the creation of urban life, and the sustaining of the entangled relationships of a community milieu. This citywide negotiation of agency is how The Commons emerges as both a personal and collective right. You will find the commons in the agile practice of this negotiation, the people who perform it, and the functional trust that keeps urban life moving. It is the conjunctive force, the animating force of these relationships, the ghost in the machine, already everywhere. The question posed by the story bank is whether we will recognize this relational space as grounds for action. These inescapable necessities (6) Torre, S. (1996) Claiming the public space: the mothers of Plaza de Mayo. In: Agrest, D. (1996) The sex of architecture. Harry N. Abrams. In “Claiming the Public Space,” Torre explains an incredible historical example of the public realm being re-opened after an authoritarian enclosure. In Argentina, a totalitarian regime made it illegal for even a group of three to meet in a public space: enclosing upon even the most basic attempts at creating a public. Nonetheless, the mothers creatively broke back open this space. By walking in pairs around the main square, the mothers did something
of urban fabric in which we must all take part become foregrounded as was the Community Board, although in such a way that this is not only a source for community rights but for collective agency. These networking places become active co-creators of this reality, rather than simply passive recipients of it. Speculation and gentrification is the construction of a certain narrative and then the making of that narrative into a sovereign force in the spaces it concerns. The disruption of the narrative precedes the disruption of its sovereignty. Just as community-empowerment preceded the creation of the Community Board, the recognition of our incommon lives must become a foundational logic to move the narrative of gentrification. The story bank project is one of many ways to begin this task.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Braden is a gardener. He began in Landscape Architecture, works with community organizing, and now co-designs urban ecologies. He is a founding partner of designing the WE, a catalyst for social change actions and enterprises. Braden earned a Master of Science with departmental honors from Parsons in New York. The Story Bank project team included Joshua Barndt, Alex Castillo-Kesper, Aubrey Murdock, Charlie Wirene and Joel Stein link http://designingforfreespeech.org/gallery/story-bankproject/ extraordinary: they re-opened the commons and produced a new public. From this common ground, they took on the regime. The lesson taken from these mothers is a creative one: the space for re-engaging a negotiation of public discourse is almost never fully closed off, nor can it be.
EVERYDAY URBANITIES “An abstraction that became true in practice”: the ecology of an ethnic enclave p.44 Urban Health and Safety: Street Vendors as Double Agents p.54 Maintaining Place Through Active Citizenship & Street Food Vending p.64
MS Design and Urban Ecologies
“AN ABSTRACTION THAT BECAME TRUE IN PRACTICE”: THE ECOLOGY OF THE ‘ETHNIC ENCLAVE’ Andrew Tucker
This endeavor will utilize a dialectical methodology as a tool for investigation of how space is produced, through the macro, meso, and micro intersections of the forces, strategies, and tactics of everyday life and its actors. Our strategy is to investigate how these interactions, at whatever level, help to shape our physical world. Whenever possible we will attempt to make as many of the opposing forces that shape this site of spatial creation as transparent as possible. This ‘forensic’ investigation of space will be followed by a proposed and actioned ‘intervention’ in that space. Towards this end, we have utilized a design as research tactic. This will entail the use of process diagrams (both still photos and illustrations) that aim to illustrate clearly the interactions, as well as the players in these moments of interaction. Furthermore, we will utilize a minimal amount of specialized language to explain these processes. We feel that the exact role of design in this process is in fact to remove unnecessary specialized language, used to obfuscate meaning, and professionalize knowledge. Where language is used we will strive to be clear and concise so as to increase the transparency and utility of this work. This tactic has been applied when analyzing our site, Chinatown in New York City. We believe that this type of visual process will produce not only a more accessible forensic analysis of the myriad systems which apply pressures to this site from both the macro and micro levels while simultaneously allowing us to retain a level of complexity without complication. A process that will allow us a far different approach than most contemporary urban analysis which unfortunately seem to be in this day and age a race to answer the question, “which city is it like?” or “How can we understand it in X framework?” These attempts to ‘formalize’ or order the complex processes of different ecosystems in the ecology of a broader city system are troubling at best, and a commodification of urban analysis at their worst. The second part of this study will take the form of a design intervention proposal and analysis. This intervention has been planned, designed, and acted upon alongside a community partner, Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence Organizing Asian Communities (CAAAV). In this intervention, the community partner was situated as the specialist in place based knowledge, and treated as the primary actor/ implementor of any specific suggestions for change. It is important to add that in this intervention all methods of interaction, and implementation were designed in a
We sought to intervene in the real lives of those suffering from a lack of equitable process in an urban environment. We positioned ourselves with them, as best as possible, and acted, progressively, to achieve an uncertain result; an imaginary. transdisciplinary fashion. That is to say, the community partner and ‘practitioner’ met to design and implement all tools/tactics together, with as little distinguishing between designer/user as possible. This was partially accomplished through the above mentioned transdisciplinary methodologies, an upfront and transparent communication between all parties involved about the responsibilities, methods of accountability, and an honest engagement around the time frame and capacity of the work available to the organization. In all cases, the ‘practitioner’ sought to disclose their privilege, and check their status in the community, and to present to his thesis advisors an honest framework around his positionality with the community partner.
Forced Migration as a historical force Utilizing a dialectic methodology to understand the multilevel forces that pressured Chinese migrants to leave their country can best be understood by breaking those forces into three different areas of pressure: Political Economy, Socio-structural, and cultural spatial. These areas are best seen as collections of intersecting societal forces that applied differing levels of pressure towards individuals, communities, and institutions resulting in a pattern of migration from China to the U.S. There forces occurred at each level (Macro, Meso, Micro) often simultaneously, and almost always as reactions to each other. Each ‘category’ applied varying levels of force and generated various
Above: Chinatown from Manhattan Bridge
levels of results from those affected. Our interest will be to approach these forces, both in application and result, in a more general approach given the confines of this space. Through a short analysis of the history of the spaces involved (China, Britain, and the U.S.), we will get a quick but telling picture of how these forces intersected one another and helped to shape the movements of Chinese citizens, and their production of space.
Enclave Chinatown in New York City is often referred to as an ethnic enclave. The enclave argument, put forward by many academics looking to dispel the stereotype of Chinatown as a ghetto, has been made by economist, anthropologist, and historians in a number of ways. Most prevalent in these writings are descriptions that speak about Chinatown as a space that is “a consolidated community based on an increasingly strong ethnic economy,”(1) and, as an enclave that has “derived a growing sense of its political power from the emergence of contemporary workplace and community organizations.”(2) These two statements can be understood as an introduction to some of the major forces, dialectical in nature, currently shaping not only the physical space of Chinatown, but the multiple relations between its residents, organizations, and institutions. An attempt to understand Chinatown as a series of intersecting systems(3) is valuable in that it avoids treating that space as static(4), and instead attempts to recognize its dynamic character. This allows us to talk about a series of intersecting forces (and that they engender) without moralizing, characterizing any particular group as the ‘victim’, and ultimately gives us a more nuanced look at current power structures at the macro, meso, and micro level as they constantly rearrange the physical and social composition of the city. A final word on the idea of Chinatown as an ‘ethnic enclave’; the very important work of Yoonmee Chang in their book, “Writing the Ghetto”, speaks to the socially prescribed ‘decision’ to label Chinatown as an ‘ethnic enclave’ rather than a ‘ghetto’. Chang explores, not only the history of the term ghetto, tracing its lineage back to the Chicago school of urban thought and Louis Wirth, but explains, through Asian American literature, how and why this term became the dominant narrative in this space. Chang argues that the “resistance to calling Asian Americans ghetto a ghetto bespeaks a denial that Asian Americans experience class inequity.”(5) This denial is expressed both internally by the Asian American (1) Zhou 1992, 91. (2) Lin, pg. 147 (3) See William Morrish’s forthcoming work on Infrastructure as the New Social Compact (2014). (4) Static analysis of the urban are incredibly problematic for practitioners since they require a type of claim, namely a commitment to what the city ‘is’ presently, with no room to talk about change, contradiction or dynamism; each one an integral quality of any urban space.
Above: Three primary dialectics created the necessary situation for immigration and forced migration in China, here called an Ecology of Forces
community, usually by those looking to mask these inequalities and avoid the negative (and racially othering) terminology of the ‘ghetto’. Chang explains that the ‘ghetto’ has become a place of significant racial stigma and narrative around poverty, crime, and forced lack of mobility. The ‘ethnic enclave’ on the other hand, “reject[s] the negative connotations of “ghetto”, “ethnic enclave” redefines racially segregated spaces of Asian American class inequity into productive communities infused with and driven by ethnic culture.”(6) In essence; Chang argues that the ‘ethnic enclave’ “obscures class with culture.”(7) The enclave is generated by a confluence of intersecting forces that make themselves concrete under a set of spatial constraints. These forces are experienced simultaneously, and although we all feel their effects, it is rare that we have the perspective to see them in their entirety. This is unfortunate, as what is required to affect change on these systems is a unitary understanding of what each of these specific forces is, and how it interacts with the others to shape and constrain our space. This study will dissect some of these processes in an attempt help begin to formulate an understanding of the intersectional effects they have on us and our everyday lives.
Economics The quick economic growth and continued expansion of Chinatown is mobilized by two polarized forces according to Jan Lin. Lin argues that there are two circuits of development occurring simultaneously: the upper and lower circuit. The upper circuit comprised of finance, investment (much of which is foreign or global in nature), and real
Above: Timeline of major events for Chinese American’s , 1840-1990
estate; the Lower comprised of a rentier class of landlords who provide low cost tenement level housing, developers, and business owners who are able to offer easy entry, low wage work to newly arrived Chinese residents.
protected sector of the enclave thus creating some level of growth, and bolsters the buying power of the ethnic members of that space; also, this generates some savings for later investment.
Min Zhou discusses the economic enclave of Chinatown as a set of two sectors. The protected sector arises within the community, and is a completely captive market. This market deals with specific ethnic goods that are valued by internal community members. This market is not accessible from the outside. The second sector of this dialectic is the export economy. This sector is non-ethnic, and a part of the larger secondary economy. There is still a provision of exotic goods, mostly sold to those outside the enclave of Chinatown, and requires a low economy of scale for its existence. This sector does not enjoy the three part ethnic market capture of its counterpart, and exerts a more limited control over production and business operations. This sector is much more sensitive to the fluctuations in larger economic systems. This sector is best explained through the example of the garment worker; their production is exported out of the enclave and they utilize the capital gained externally to make purchases within the
Fourth Migration The ethnic enclave of Chinatown has provided both a space in which new immigrant Chinese could migrate towards, in search of better security and opportunity, as well as a site of labor exploitation, and anti-democratic rule of law. Since the 1980’s the introduction of neoliberal roll out roll back policies by state and local governments, alongside a vast influx in global capital, has started to change the physical makeup and identity of Manhattan’s Chinatown. This change, best viewed through the continual loss of affordable housing, and thereby ethnic migration out from Chinatown to other, smaller satellite Chinatowns, has been dramatic and increasing.
(5) Chang, Yoonme; Writing the Ghetto: Class, Authorship, and the Asian American Ethnic Enclave. Rutgers University Press, 2010, pg. 25 (6) Chang 2010, 26. (7) Ibid
This massive scale change, often referred to as gentrification, is best understood from a dialectical approach. The forces of capital development, honing in around areas of massive redlining and disinvestment by the federal government, which spurred large areas of concentrated poverty, and the liberal expansionist ideology that pervades most local and state governments develop strategies (8), are the culprits of this large scale geographical change. The forced dispersal of residents, through government relocation programs, like HOPE VI, and/or the displacement caused by ‘rebranding’ city districts and neighborhoods to attract capital reinvestment, both contribute relocation of those who traditionally reside in these spaces. Chinatown is no exception; as stated earlier New York city, and the Bloomberg administration, has sought to ‘revitalize’ much of the city of Manhattan through attracting foreign investment, upscale rezoning measures to allow for more infill and development of business districts, and utilized branding campaigns to encourage restaurant and destination nightspots. This influx of capital development in Chinatown is well documented. CAAAV has issued two stunning reports (Reimaging Rezoning and Converting Chinatown) to help raise awareness within the area, and bring attention to local lawmakers about the consequences of their actions in the rezoning processes. CAAAV reports that “the number of new building permits in Chinatown and the lower east side increased dramatically over the past 15 years from only 40 in 1990 to 970 in 2006.”(9) Simultaneously, the number of affordable housing units dropped by over 1000 units between 2003 and 2006. This loss of affordable housing and high scale condominium development (10) go hand in hand. Residents traditionally protected from absorbanent rent prices are increasingly finding themselves harassed out of their apartments by landlords through direct and indirect tactics. Lin explains that “tenement owners push residents to vacate through skimping on maintenance.”(11) Complicity for this type of hyper gentrification lies at the feet of multiple parties. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, along with city planners, used recovery money from 9/11 to develop high end real estate. Oddly enough this was completely legal since that money, $10 billion dollars, was earmarked in Community Development Block Grants from HUD; and another $150 million was earmarked for the City Economic Development Corp. for work on the East River Waterfront.(12) Above: Upper/Lower Circuit Economic theory by Jan Lin and Min Zhou, visualization by Drew Tucker
(8) Imbroscio, David. Urban America Reconsidered: Alternatives for Governance and Policy; Cornell University, 2010. (9) CAAAV, 2008. (10) Condominium prices went up 19% between 2005-2006; and sales rose 80% between 2004-2007, CAAAV 2008. (11) Lin, 1998. Reconstructing Chinatown. University of Minnesota Press. (12) CAAAV, 2008.
This was truly a labor of love, and it came to us through a provisional, changeable, and disputable process. To put any words to paper is to create a static thing; something immediately fallible and incomplete, claiming totality. This type of development can only be a part of a massive effort to create a new cultural space in Chinatown. The local residents there have an average annual income of $36,899.00, with 27% of them making below $16,556.00. This revitalization cannot be for the current occupants of Chinatown as they simply cannot afford to partake in its benefits. A report by the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF), states that as of 1990, Asians made up more than half the population in New Yorks Chinatown; By 2010 Asians were the majority group, yet made up less than half of all residents. They also reported that the absolute number of Asians decreased in NYC Chinatown in this period.(13) The consequences of this rapid class shift in Chinatown is that many low income Chinese American’s are relocating to more distant satellite ethnic enclaves outside Manhattan. Lin tells us that this movement, once about congestion and upward mobility, is now about population density, scarcity of housing, and land values.(14) She argues, the “outer boroughs [are] becoming the primary settlement for new immigrants to the metropolis.”(15) Manhattan’s Chinatown population has been dropping since 1960 when 35% of the residents in that area were Chinese, by 1990, only 18% remained. Meanwhile the Chinese population in Brooklyn rose from 14-28%, and in Queens from 14-36%. In general Asian immigrants made up around 28% of the total foreign born population in the U.S. in 2011, and (13) AALDEF, Chinatown Then and Now, 2011. (14) Lin 1998, 107. (15) Ibid (16) NYC City Planning, Department of CIty Planning City of New York, The Newest New Yorkers: Characteristics of the City’s Foreign Born Population, 2013 (file:///Users/admin/ Downloads/nny_2013.pdf)
Chinese immigrants alone made up 5% (350,231) of the 3 million U.S. foreign born in 2011. According to the 2010 census figures, New Yorks Asian population is now 13% of the total population.(16) Having grown over 30% since the last census in 2000, the Asian population of New York continues to be one of two ethnic groups (Hispanic is the other) that generate an actual addition to the population total.(17) Growth of Asian residents is generally unequal across the boroughs: “In Brooklyn and Staten Island, the Asian population grew by 41 percent and 40 percent respectively. The Asian population in Queens increased by almost a third (31 percent). The Asian population in the Bronx and in Manhattan grew by almost a quarter (24 percent each).”(18) Many neighborhoods saw decreases as well: “Canarsie in Brooklyn saw the biggest decline of 38 percent from 3,587 in 2000 to 2,238 in 2010. Among the larger Asian neighborhoods, Manhattan’s Chinatown saw a decline of 14 percent and Astoria in Queens had 4 percent fewer Asians. All three neighborhoods saw declines in total population as well.”(19) Jan Lin’s work on Chinatown, Reconstructing Chinatown, speaks to how these ‘satellite’ Chinatowns have formed over time, and towards the pressures and processes that made this necessary or possible. Lin argues that most of these sites emerge due to the congestion of Manhattan’s Chinatown. These spaces quickly become extensions of the upper/lower circuit phenomenon Lin has brought to light previously, and which I have covered at length in this work. If this is true, then we can assume that these spaces are experiencing many of the same issues of informal political control, and exploitative labor practices that Manhattan’s Chinatown. Lin makes an interesting observation that due to this congestion, many immigrants are simply ‘leap frogging’ Manhattan and settling directly in these new satellite spaces.
Community Partner Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of this work was finding an entry point where a design intervention could begin to make a significant difference. The breadth and depth of information gathered during the initial forensic investigation was incredibly overwhelming in both its complexity, and in how enmeshed the systems it explored seemed to be. After a long research process, entry into
this set of complicated socio-spatial issues seemed incredibly daunting. Due to some good advice, and luck, an appropriate community partner presented itself. The Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence: Organizing Asian Communities is a 30 year old organization that was founded in 1986. Founded through the outcry of the Asian community, nationally, due to police violence against Asian community members, CAAAV sought to make public and organize around: . A legacy, not individualistic instances, of systemic and institutional oppression against Asian communities . The systemic and institutionalized impoverishment of immigrant and refugee communities . The invisibility of women’s work . The focused attack of the LBGTQ community, and the additional burden bore by these individuals due to the silence of the community at large . The international, and globalized cause and effect, that precipitates issues of poverty, racial, sex/gender, and immigrant violence
organization they are built with. . Reflexive: these tools will be fluid in that they can be reshaped (instead of discarded) as the organization grows, changes; and as the its successes precipitate new challenges. . Scaled: by scaling we do not mean that a one size fits all solution was produced or that a tool itself must address any issue of any scale to be understood as having utility; instead we designed tools that would ‘fit’ the need of the organization and that could be scaled in their complexity to not only address current problems but also prepare the organization for future issues that might arise.
instead abstract our needing by working to generate capital to purchase these things. This remains true in the case of social interaction as well, as we substitute our free labor on facebook (22) for the actual process of engagement with real people, face to face, in an attempt to create meaningful relationships. This is ultimately a question of how we will ‘be’ in the world.
These design qualities were developed to meet some specific challenges that our general research of design methodologies have uncovered:
Alongside our community partners, three convivial tools toward intervention were created and modified to fit their organizing needs. Each of these tools was contextual and its application is not immediately available to any situation. Along this line of reason, each tool was designed alongside the community to contain a design language, and implementation that would be implicitly understood by that organization.(23)
Challenges of Contemporary Design
The Sociogram The sociogram is an organizing tool used to make explicit the social relations in and of a community; oftentimes only understood implicitly. This tool not only brings to the forefront, publicly, all the social relations in a community but also creates a set of hierarchical analysis towards revelation, education, and which can be mobilized into a political strategy for advocacy.(24)
. Rooted: the tools designed will remain with the organization we build them alongside. They will be contextually relevant, and designed to specifically fit the
. The Issue of Embeddedness: this problem comes directly from the many disconnects between user and designer created by the proximity of work within the design process. Many moves have been made to change the fundamental nature of design in an attempt to address this issue: participatory design, transdisciplinary design, etc. But the issues remains. Often tools are not ‘of’ the community. There is, at root, a lack of ‘cost’ for the designer. If their tool does not work, they simply fail. For the community there is a much higher, much more significant cost. Embedding tools roots them within the community through shared risk (at least as much as is possible), and by locating ‘ownership’ within a collective group of risk takers; ie. ownership by a precarious population. . The Issue of Hysteresis: hysteresis “is the dependence of the output of a system not only on its current input, but also on its history of past inputs.”(21) We borrow this phrase to describe the process of commoditization of a service or product in a design solution. Often, we are faced with the cooptation of our design interventions, turning them into simple commodities to be purchased as needed and where available, rather than significant processes of community change. Hysteresis refers to this by describing how our intention or input is simply not enough to guarantee a positive outcome. . The Issue of Abstraction: Abstraction is best understood as any process that moves us outside the practice of existing in our everyday life. To be more specific, we need food, shelter, and social interaction to maintain our bodies; today, instead of procuring these things through acts, we
(17) Without these two groups, New York Cities population would have shrunk over the last decade, ASIAN COMMUNITY A DRIVING FORCE FOR GROWTH IN NEW YORK CITY, ACCORDING TO NEW 2010 CENSUS DATA, ASIAN AMERICAN FEDERATION, 2011 (HTTP:// WWW.AAFNY.ORG/PRESS/PRESSRELEASE.ASP?PRID=117&Y=2011). (18) Asian American Federation, 2011 (19) Ibid
(20) The term ‘convivial’ should be understood as “use-value-oriented”, as laid out by Ivan Illich in his work, Tools for Conviviality. (21) As defined by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hysteresis) (22) Thanks to Quilian Riano for first bringing this type of labor to my attention. (23) What this means for presentation is that final prototypes have been reconfigured to exclude some sensitive information for that organization.
(24) The traditional Sociogram methodology has been reconceptualized from Jacob Levy Moreno’s original design around mapping out group preferences to a more political model by Miguel Robles-Duran and Angel Lara. I’ve sought to build off this model by making this tool multi-modal for better base building support for community organizations. (25) The initial model of the Spirogram as I first encountered it is given to Miguel Robles-Duran and Angel Lara.
The initial research developed in this work around the ‘ethnic enclave’ revealed some intricate links between the influx of foreign capital, and the finance, investment, and real estate sectors; and so, fair and affordable housing seemed a natural entry to point to attempting to address or at least intervene in some of these issues. Towards that end, CAAAV’s Chinatown rezoning campaign seemed the most intuitive entry point to working alongside this organization. Our initial analysis of CAAAV supported a strategy of focusing on building alongside and for the organizer instead of the membership. This allowed us to avoid the issue of a short time span in which to build trust and the need to invade a very intimate organizational space for the membership of CAAAV. In the past we have seen projects like this that try to force trust building too quickly and in the end fail or claim a higher level of success than is actually possible given the barrier of time and language. Our strategy instead was to build tools that would possess a number of ‘convivial’ qualities and that would avoid a number of drawbacks brought to light by other studies: Qualities of Conviviality (20)
The Spirogram The Strategic Self-Diagnosis Spiral for Action (SSDSA) exercise is used to generate a collection of self and group analysis that bring to light a series of tactics, actionable towards an organizations goals. This tool can also be very easily changed to provide a self analysis of a group.(25) This tool is dialectical in nature and asks the organization to record its ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ so that a complete understanding of the complex interactions within the organization are understood and made explicit.
Narrative Tool Storytelling is a sort of social transaction; one of our primary ways of transmitting information; communicating, persuading or entertaining; and making sense of the world and our experience in it. The purpose of this tool is to help individuals craft the story of themselves, their community, and the issues they are facing now. These stories, over time, will act as powerful tools for advocacy, education, and building agency.
Above: Spirogram logic model as modified by Drew Tucker
Conclusion “Knowledge cannot be equated with skill or technique. It is theoretical, provisional, changeable, disputable. Or it is nothing.”(26) Our hope is that Lefebvre is correct, not because it releases us from the consequences of the inevitable gaps, and missteps of this work, but because it guarantees us that which we most desire; a more fitting narrative about our experience over the last two years. This was truly a labor of love, and it came to us through a provisional, changeable, and disputable process. To put any words to paper is to create a static thing; something immediately fallible and incomplete, claiming totality. Lefebvre would steer us away from this desire as well. He says, “philosophy has always aimed at totality. But whenever philosophy has tried to (26) Lefebvre, Henri. The Urban Revolution; University of Minnesota, 2003, pg. 59.
Above: Narrative Tool logic model as modified by Drew Tucker
achieve or realize totality using its own resources, it has failed...yet it is philosophy that provides this scope and vision.”(27) We have sought to achieve here a certain type of scope and vision. Over the last two years we have learned that an interdisciplinary team can approach an urban problematic across disciplines and spaces, both inside and outside the university, in an attempt to not solve so much as mitigate the damages of unjust or inequitable processes. We have, in our opinion, been most successful in this type of functionality; generating a new way of viewing and conceptualizing the ‘problematic’ in the ‘urban’. How we approach what we see as an issue; how we vision a change, both spatially and physically around that issue; and how we insert ourselves into that space to begin that change.
In this project we chose to overstep these initial boundaries. We sought to intervene in the real lives of those suffering from a lack of equitable process in an urban environment. We positioned ourselves with them, as best as possible, and acted, progressively, to achieve an uncertain result; an imaginary. The success of this project can only be determined outside the constraints of this paper and by those whom we worked alongside, but we can measure, after a fashion, the impact this work had on the field of urbanism internally, and our individual and group practice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR A fifth generation Louisvillian and recent New Yorker, Drew received his MS in Design & Urban Ecologies from Parsons the New School for Design. He studies the (p)olitical contradictions, social processes, and liberatory conflict inherent to urban environments. His current engagements include Noble, a workers collective, project visioning and implementation for a local urban design think tank, strategic development work for multiple non-profits, and a long term design research project alongside partners at the University of Wyoming. He currently resides in Flatbush, Brooklyn with his dogs Gracie & Musket, and his much more intelligent, incredibly patient and beautiful partner, Colette Henderson.
(27) Ibid, pg. 64.
WHAT LIES BETWEEN: THE AGONISM OF THE [NEW] URBAN BROKERING Jonathan Lapalme
Case Study: Rethinking the Social Role of Street Vendors in New York City In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, street food vendors were the closest things to a street lamp in the dark areas of Manhattan. They also provided more than 350,000 free meals to the most damaged areas and charged the phone of many New Yorkers out of power. During moments of acute or chronic urban challenges, street vendors are uniquely positioned to fill in the gaps. When it rains, after accidents, during massive political protests, in the aftermath of natural disasters, and in underserved communities, street vendors are critical engagement points within the urban fabric. Because of their mobility and flexibility, street vendors are a flexible and wider-reaching complement to traditional fixed infrastructures. However, there are, on average, more than 40,000 tickets written to vendors, and about 10,000 arrests per year. This unfair targeting of and lack of support for street vendors disproportionately threatens the livelihoods of low-income immigrant families of color and U.S. military veterans, often in order to benefit big real estate and business interests. Street vendors have been an integral part of New York City for more than 200 years. They sell meals, products, but they also play an important and unrecognized social role. This role has been officialized temporarily in the aftermath of Sandy with a partnership with the city, but street vendors were immediately dismissed and simply returned to an everyday existence where they are considered problematic objects managed in an informal post-disciplinary logic of control allowed by a convoluted set of regulation.
In order to build on the role that street vendors already play in addressing urban health and safety issues, the mobile carts were approached as a scattered social-infrastructure in which there exists a root of strategy ready to be deployed to address public health and safety issues. The potentialities of this idea was explored as part of a series of workshops that were organized in collaboration with street vendors associations, on one side, as well as health and safety organizations, on the other. These workshops explored scenarios through prompts and began to define proposals to augment the role of street vendors in New York City around three main opportunity spaces: Emergency First Response Primary Care (CPR), Public Health Services / Multidisciplinary Care Teams and City Preparedness and Disaster Relief.
Above: A collection of case studies showing the social role of street vendors in times of urban crisis
Legible Practice | A Non-Exhaustive Informal Guide To The [New] Urban Brokering The following section is an attempt at making explicit some of the insights I gathered from trying to accomplish this type of brokerage around the idea of rethinking the social role of street vendors in New York City between September 2013 and May 2014. The learning moments have been abstracted from the real case study in order to preserve a certain degree of privacy for the stakeholders involved.
Design and Black Urban Ecology “The problem with the thesis that entities possess no separability from one another is that it paradoxically risks rendering us blind to relations. Because we begin with the premise that everything is interrelated, we risk not doing the hard work to determine how things are linked and related, with disturbing political and practical consequences. We forget that many of our central political problems arise from the fact people and other living being are not related. People suffer because they are unrelated to jobs, food, water, opportunity and political representation. (...) Much of our work as ecological activists consists not simply in getting people, governments, and businesses to recognize how things are related but in forging relations that do not currently exist and in preserving relations that are in danger of being broken.”
-Levi R. Bryant | Prismatic Ecology - Black Ecology Popular spiritualist ecological thought claims that everything is interconnected and interrelated. The concept of Black Ecology differs fundamentally from traditional Green Ecology by advancing that the general idea that Nature, conceptualized as a quasi-neoliberal system which, if left by itself without the unnatural visible hand of human beings, would attain perfect equilibrium and provide for all, is both ontologically incorrect and perhaps dangerous for ecological practice. (1)
Dark Matter The inherent quality in the ‘color’ black, which absorbs ‘all frequencies of light, while not reflecting or emitting light in that spectrum of color visible to us’ also raises connections with the concept of Dark Matter in physics, conceptualized by Dan Hill as a metaphor for the hidden processes which hold organizational or institutional change process back. The universe is apparently made of 83% of dark matter. (1) Bryant, 2013. (2) Ibid (3) Sassen, 2014.
The city’s dark matter is simultaneously invisible, because we can hardly and rarely perceive it, but also omnipresent, reacting constantly as we try to re-engage, as Waster Vanstiphout suggests, with the complex structures where the real struggles lie. ‘In its absorptive dimension, the color black provides us with a nice metaphor for how entities are modified and transformed as a result of their interactions with other entities’ (2), where the majority is brutally rejected through the complexity of the global economy (3), dispossessed by the over-accumulation of a few (4), through an apparatus of domination hidden from the dominants themselves. (5)
Political / Economic Processes
NMDism As ‘urban practitioners’, we are now required to approach the city’s Gordian knots by simultaneously considering various dimensions within increasingly fractured cities stuck in a central planning culture of segregated expertise, which continues to value and reward specialization to the detriment of all other competencies. This isolating, futile and confusing dogma “has also resulted in the individual’s leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others”(6), since that aspect is only rarely part of someone’s job description. This “Not my department” attitude is reinforced by the fact that our western societies hold, as Sarah Schulman expresses in Gentrification of the Mind, an idea of happiness that precludes being uncomfortable. Reducing the world to this more manageable size thus makes us more comfortable... but also depoliticized, fragmented and segregated from ‘possible communities’(7). Focusing on extraordinary moments allows the reveal of the epigenetic landscape, the governing terrain, which makes it easier to develop a vision of what could be from previous conditions “using the capabilities it already possesses”(8) and try to make it change from within rather than try to make it evolve into something it is not already. As Kevin Lynch taught us, edges “have directional qualities” and “can also be path as well”(9)
Brokering from the Edges To address the unevenness of contemporary urban development beyond the false dichotomy between techne and metis, formal and informal, I would like to argue that we need to “dissolve our ‘urban’ practice into the civic” (9) by positioning ourselves at the interstitial spaces of the artificially segregated cultures of expertise by spatializing and urbanizing other practices.
(4) Harvey, 2008. (5) Schulman, 2012. (6) Fuller, 1975. (7) Lefebvre, 1992. (8) Meroni, 2008. (9) Lych, 1960. (10) Robles-Duran, 2012.
High Modernist Planning
Above: Theoretical model translating the false dichotomy between formal and informal and the predominance of informality in times of crisis
To achieve this mission, I believe that we first need to make the edges more visible in between the fragments in order to actively forge relations that do not currently exist between stakeholders. Once these edges are revealed, the hidden affordances and possible connections on both sides need to be synthesized and activated through a [new] urban brokering. Not the traditional type of real estate or financial brokerage where the agent represents only one side, nor a ‘partnership development director’ in one or the other organization ultimately benefiting from the brokerage - I am speaking here of a broker with dual agency. However, representing both sides can result in conflicts of interest resulting in a loss of advocacy for both parties. For that reason, depending on their positionality, the [new] urban brokers need to politicize and instrumentalize their relative privilege in the brokerage process.
Current Shifts in Service Design as an Opportunity Service design, by putting “dedication” and “concern” at the forefront of design (11), can bring great insights to many projects by using it as an attitude and as an approach, rather than as a field of application. The danger with the highly positive rhetoric of service design at the moment, especially when applied either in business contexts or as part of austerity measures and increasing disinvestment in public services, lies in the fact that it is often not living up to the promises of empowerment and transformational development for the most underserved. “Service designers need to better understand the dynamics and qualities of (11) Troncon, 2010.
transformational change, but also to reflect on designers influence within power dynamics within various kinds of communities. (...) Adding the adjective “transformative” to “service design” requires, therefore, a reflection not only on how designers can conduct transformative processes. There must also include a reflection on which transformations we aspire to, why we do so, and most importantly, on who is benefited.”(12) In French, ‘rendre un service’ (give a service), means ‘doing someone a favor’. By designing transformative services with dual agency, I believe we can do everyone a favor.
For a more Critical Approach to Service and Strategic Design As Sangiorgi suggests, “The intrinsic element of coproduction of services in transformation design necessitates the concomitant development of staff, the public and the organization. In this way, service design is entering the fields of organizational studies and social change with little background knowledge of their respective theories and principles.”(13) Therefore, the adoption by service design practitioners of theories, tools, methods, processes and attitudes from organizational development and community action research into is becoming increasingly necessary. But given the omnipresence of services, which can be an easy commonality between fragmented entities, service design needs to remain experimental and informal to a certain degree, avoiding existing pressures to make it into a defined specialized practice. (12) Sangiorgi, 2011. (13) Ibid
Because of its immeasurable ambitions, ranging from planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication, material and physical components of existing services, there are, and cannot be, ‘a’ service designer. Service design, which should be called design for services (14) should only be an approach, which can be practiced by people with different expertise coming together around the goal of improving the quality of life of denizens (not users, nor clients). To achieve its transformative ambitions, service design needs to remain integrative and experimental and avoid the trap of specialization and segregation of expertise, which leads to exclusionary professional practices.
The Risks of Visual Formalization
1987 Street Peddler Task Force
1940 CRACKDOWN LSE - Essex Market
1761: 30 minutes law (to protect farmers)
1800+: Big companies start in the street.
1894: Veterans Law
1916 All licenses expire
1886: First Pushcark Market 4 peddlers decide not to move
1940: "Street peddler" no more in U.S. Census,
1930: Depression: more native born citizens vendors
1990's 1998 Giuliani against Cap on vendors on 125th licenses
2001 CRACKDOWN 9/11
Emergence of black market
1930’s CRACKDOWN LaGuardia
Showing instead of telling has its uses when it comes to engaging people in a process, but depending on the context: the behaviors, attitudes or feelings of the partners involved, the level of risk of a certain project, and how sensitive some topics are, visualization, as advocated by most design practitioners is not simply a question of facilitating the interaction with people and is not always the right platform to discuss. “When you want to do something very new, ‘showing’ obliges us to invent something to show, and invention is inherently risky. As a bracketed endeavor, projects mitigate risk by containing it. And by virtue of being concrete, projects help make change more imminently knowable, which in turn lowers the perceived
2011: NYC Food Trucks Association 2010: Vamos Unidos 2009: Vendor Power with CUP
Above: Non-exhaustive visualization of some of the dynamics between strategies from authorities to regulate street vending in New York City and how Street vendors adapted through various tactics.
(14) Sangiorgi, 2011.
risk of doing something new at the next larger scale. Abstract notions of possibility, no matter how clever, suffer in comparison to the status quo merely by not existing yet”(15). While representation is a great way to synthesize and translating the research insights meaningfully, ideally, the representations of the project through graphics, maps, matrices, diagrams and calendars should be constructed collaboratively with the main partners so as to increase the feeling of ownership of the project, when the time is right. Formalization of the project through visual representations can also make the scenarios too concrete too soon, which might intimidate some of the stakeholders involved who are hesitant to commit to a new set of ideas, even if it is still very early in the development process. Finding the right type and dose of visualization at the right moment is therefore a difficult balance to achieve, albeit a transformative one if gauged sensibly.
Service Ecology towards Urban Symbiosis Inspired by industrial symbiosis, I would like to suggest building on the existing service ecology towards a more just urban symbiosis, which can be defined as the coproduction and joint optimization of the sharing of services, utility and by-product resources among local urban organizations in order to both add social value and improve efficiency of existing services. Service Symbiosis engages complementary, but traditionally separate local organizations in a more collective approach to competitive advantage through collocation and inter-organizational networking. The keys to service symbiosis is an aim at shared power in the collaboration and the synergistic possibilities offered by the spatial proximity of sociomaterial urban networks, in order to decrease the conflicts over the Right to the City. To achieve this symbiosis, which has the potential to achieve economies of scale and gains of justice, a [new] type of urban brokering is necessary with dual agency. Depending on their positionality, the [new] urban brokers need to politicize and instrumentalize their relative privilege in the brokerage process. Therefore, the positionality of the entry point is crucial.
Politicizing and Instrumentalizing the Middle Entry point Attempting to go beyond the literature around top-down and bottom-up modes of driving a project, Helsinki Design Lab instead focuses “on an alternative approach: some projects are able to hover in a middle space, pressing ‘down’ to induce the creation or adoption of new means of directly (15) Boyer, Cook, Steinberg, 2011.
meeting the challenges at hand, while simultaneously pushing ‘upwards’ to question the assumptions of today’s systems and create space for redesign.”(16) Given the politics of the middle entry point, however, ‘pushing up’ might be more urgent and appropriate than ‘pressing down’, especially if we want to address the imbalance in power. Many grassroots organizations are used to fighting the existing system in the name of the most oppressed and marginalized among us. Partly because of their lack of resources, however, they can often only afford to be reactionary and need the support to think, develop and “build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”(17). If a new model is to be created, the [new] urban broker needs to make sure that it answers to the most pressing needs of the most precarious parties involved while anticipating its potential risks. “Today’s social innovators are working on a class of problems where “new models” may be conceived in the abstract, but ultimately must be built amidst and within the old.”(18)
Beyond the Methods: Knowing Whom to Serve and How The presence of the word serving in the name of the approach is not merely enough. Service design practitioners “will need to decide whom to serve”(19) and how. Given the huge responsibilities associated with transformative practices, reflexivity should be introduced in the designing of services in order to address power and control issues (20). “We have to understand how, at a deeper level, we can face today’s broken circuitry between people, culture and political process. (...) This is a process of collective learning - about how to unleash the potential of people to engage with different creative energies for collective action in order to become a shaping force in our immediate environment” (21). Ideally, the design process would be guided by the specific groups of citizens involved in the process, but if existing constraints make that level of involvement in the brokering process impossible, the broker should still engage in designing with, not for, people, to avoid simply presenting them with a few imposed choices. The broker needs to avoid simply creating a “platform for good intentions” (22) for users or clients, but a platform that “re-set the public value of urbanism as a contributor to greater solidarity, one that acts as a real public faculty that co-produces an alternative” (23). As David Harvey explains: “The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably
depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization.” (24)
Trojan Horses: The danger with Détournement, Co-optation and Strategic Reversibility From the inception of a brokering project, there should be the intention of reconceptualizing the socio-material systems in order for the most disenfranchised to access the discussions they are not normally part of, and opportunities they do not have access to, while ensuring that the power dynamics are calibrated as much as possible along the way so that they are not taken advantage of in the process. The framing of the opportunity spaces is therefore a very delicate exercise, since the terminologies needed to appeal to external potential partners need to take into consideration the comfort zone of everyone involved. Conceptualizing the project as Trojan Horses, as explained by the Helsinki Design Lab, is necessary because “the question of scale cannot be delayed until later phases of development. Instead the potential for growth must be nested within a project from the start and form an integral aspect of decision-making at all stages.” (25) However, the same metaphor is described in Participation: From Tyranny to Transformation instead as a myth of participation “which may end up by substituting a subtle kind of teleguided and masterly organized participation for the old types of intransitive or culturally defined participation” (26). Perhaps one way to ensure that the Trojan Horse does not get co-opted is by engaging, optimistically, what Foucault describes as the strategic reversibility of power relations “in terms of which individual subjects, though constituted by power-knowledge, can utilize the techniques of power in achieving their own ends”(27). The idea should never be to simply design new services. Designing for services should simply be an entry point, a trojan horse, aimed at unlocking the potential for positive structural change.
A Positive Outlook: Between Naiveté and Privilege “Participation helps unite people who share commitments to more equitable and humane forms of social and political economic organization but who differ greatly on strategy: some are more reformist, others are deeply skeptical that reform can make much difference; some are more forgiving of people who work, live and seek reform within dominant institutions that otherwise tend to impose agendas and so foster exclusion, while others see Machiavellian intent (23) van heeswijk, 2012. (24) Harvey, 2008. (25) Boyer, Cook, Steinberg, 2011. (26) Rahnema, 2004. (27) Olssen, 1999.
The danger with the highly positive rhetoric of service design at the moment, especially when applied either in business contexts or as part of austerity measures and increasing disinvestment in public services, lies in the fact that it is often not living up to the promises of empowerment and transformational development for the most underserved. everywhere they look” (28). While seeing Machiavellian intent everywhere will certainly make the collaborative process more difficult, it can and should also be seen as an asset: by making us more careful. A significant part of the critical input around the scenarios developed for new transformative approaches to services will be generated by partners that are more risk sensitive and politically minded. Furthermore, since it is impossible to evaluate as an outsider if whether or not the Machiavellian intent is sufficiently founded, considering it as a valid input is essential. Even if all of this exploration would not have happened without the outside broker, whether the person is labeled as a researcher, facilitator, consultant, animator or change agent, their life will never be as much at stake as the partner involved. Put crudely, the asymmetry in the positivity of outlooks in between the stakeholders involved and the broker might therefore be thought of as an asymmetry of privilege and a potential indicator of ignorance.
(28) Beddington, 2004.
Collaboration Beyond Surface Dynamics Collaboration through the design for transformative services should therefore be approached critically rather than functionally. Behind the surface dynamics of the strategies of engagement (29) that are chosen lie different aspects of power dynamics, which can make the cooperation a source of either conflict, if the behaviors are incompatible and the interest differ, or cooperation, if the mechanisms for collective action in between partners are just. This can result in either collaboration, if the power is shared, but also forms of contestation, contention, and, perhaps the most likely to happen: compliance, where dominant parties regulate the weaker ones. Some of these aspects of power range from discursive legitimacy to formal authority, critical resources, but also race, gender, class, language and others. Therefore, even if the parties involved align their synergy and creativity around a common set of goals, beliefs, values and scarce resources, what lies between is vast and require exceptional sensitivity and sensibility from the broker. The definition of the context and issues to be addressed is a crucial step, and so is the decision to include or exclude certain stakeholders in the process.
Necessary Exclusion Inclusion, while functionally ideal, is not necessarily advisable from a critical perspective. While the creation of conditions for good communication in between stakeholders by emphasizing their commonalities can only be encouraged, recognizing and considering the differences within communities of practice is even more critical. Given existing political or ideological tensions in between stakeholders, it was naive to believe that by “simply wishing themselves into a ‘participatory stance’, investigators will be able to lead the community in transcending historically and culturally rooted differences and conflicts between genders, castes and occupational groups within a few hours or days (30). In more functional approaches to strategic design, such as the made explicit by the Helsinki Design Lab, the right mixture of personality, expertise, age and gender is often advocated, but without dealing with any mixture of class, since they are mostly including high level professionals and intellectuals around the table, both local and foreign, and ‘including’ the people directly targeted by the topic only as part of a fieldwork on the second day of the week-long paid studio exercise so that the participants can better relate and be inspired. No space is neutral.
(29) Hardy and Phillips, 1998. (30) Francis, 2001.
Using the idea of boundary from Foucault and others, Hayward suggests that we might understand power “as the network of social boundaries that delimit fields of possible action”. Freedom, on the other hand, ‘is the capacity to participate effectively in shaping the social limits that define what is possible’ (31). In this sense, participation as freedom is also the right to participate effectively in a given space by shaping it and defining who gets to participate.
De-gentrifying the Mind No matter their level of involvement in the process and how valuable the contribution of the brokers are, their positionality as outsiders remain a privileged one. While I might have the luxury of approaching this personal and political conflict as a form of agonism, the people I am working with might have present and past experiences that prohibit them from seeing this perceived unnecessary additional struggle through anything else than an antagonistic lens. Inadvertently, depending on the personalities involved and the context, this dynamic can be adapted, but perhaps never before serious trust is established. Careful back and forth assessments and a strong reflective praxis are key. In the last chapter of Gentrification of the Mind, Sarah Schulman mentions that we go along with gentrified happiness “because of the privilege of dominance, which is the privilege not to notice how our way of living affects less powerful people”(32). While she refers to much serious inequalities in that chapter, I think it can relate to basis of negotiation of this type of brokering from the bottom-middle up.
Managing Real and Perceived Risks Through Time There is a range of explanations for people not wanting to take risks. Group dynamics and the impossible neutrality of a space is one of them. Studies of group decision making have found that group discussions lead to group members taking more risky decisions than they would have taken as an individual, which can be explained partly because of how culturally valued taking risk is in our western capitalistic societies: greater risk = greater rewards, potentially (Cooke, 2001). Furthermore, discussions are shaped by assumptions about other group members. The participants’ control cannot be increased when they are put into a situation leading them to commit to more risky decisions than otherwise would have been the case (33). If they back-off following the commitment to the idea, it might be explained by the Abilene paradox.
(31) Hayward, 1998. (32) Schulman, 2012. (33) Cooke, 2001.
In organizational terms, this paradox happens when one group takes actions in contradiction to what they really want, because of assumptions from within or pressures from outside, which defeats the very purposes they are trying to achieve (34). If this paradox emerges, careful assessment needs to be made around the spatio-temporal pressures that might have contributed to it. Any timeline is somewhat artificial. Committing as a group to delivering a defined set of outcomes in a short window can put both positive and negative pressure on a collaborative effort. Ideally, the parties involved should be patient and seeing the plan in a wider window of time, but when the temporal dynamics have to shift, planning for flexible timelines is crucial if the broker wants to avoid imposing tactics that the stakeholders are not comfortable with, because risk perception constantly shifts.
As an intermediary, I believe that challenges must be welcomed and even embraced as crucial learning moments that will benefit the future practice of the broker. Difficulty represents the gap in between the practitioner at the moment and the one to become. That gap can only be bridged by being more patient, empathetic and strategic. However, if this mindset of the broker is appropriate for himself, or even for the more dominant stakeholders involved, the reality is that some stakeholders might
struggle enough as it is already, given past experiences that lead them to believe more in antagonism than agonism. The broker needs to take as much of the struggle on its back as possible and embrace it. This is, I believe, how “the disruptive power of the edge must be reckoned with”(38).
Taking On [part of] the Struggle The best way to learn how a system works is to try to change it. Therefore, “Whatever has been planned, there are always unwanted consequences for a reason that has nothing to do with the quality of the research or with the precision of the plan, but with the very nature of action. It has never the case that you first know and then act. You first act tentatively and then begin to know a bit more before attempting again”(35). Given the political nature of what lies in between our fragmented cities, the [new] urban broker needs to approach the work through a political mindset that emphasize the potential positive aspects of some forms of political conflicts. The concept of agonism accepts some conflicts as part of the necessary meshwork of democratic processes, and seeks to channel it positively. “Agonism implies a deep respect and concern for the other; indeed, the Greek agon refers most directly to an athletic contest oriented not merely toward victory or defeat, but emphasizing the importance of the struggle itself—a struggle that cannot exist without the opponent. (36) Similarly, Nietzsche believed that to achieve anything worthwhile, we have to go through an enormous amount of efforts. “If it’s too easy to get an idea accepted, you’re probably doing it wrong. You’re probably not disturbing the dark matter enough”(37).
(34) Cooke, 2001. (35) Latour, 2007. (36) Chambers, 2001. (37) Hill, 2013.
Above: Storyboard sketches of the main opportunity spaces identified for the case study of this project: Emergency First Response Primary Care (CPR), Public Health Services / Multidisciplinary Care Teams and City Preparedness and Disaster Relief.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jonathan Lapalme is a strategic designer, urban ecologist, film director, and curator based in Montréal. He recently directed a documentary as part of the Uneven Growth exhibit at MoMA, and is currently working on various initiatives in New York and Montréal. He graduated in 2014 from the Master fo Science in Design and Urban Ecologies.
(38) Lynch, 1960.
GREEN CARTS ENTREPENEURS FRUITS AND VEGETABLES COMMISSARIES STORE FRONTS LICENSE
POLICE TICKETS SIDEWALK DEPARTMENT OF UNEMPLOYMENT BLACK MARKET STREET CART HEALTH VETERANS
BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS
PERMITS 5”x10” REGULATIONS
Political stance- design to illustrate social realities
Using art as a catalyst for social change
Building a movement
Empower others to start a process
Opening spaces for the unvoiced
Using art as a way of protesting
Ongoing collective research Exchange and dialogue
Bridge of empathy
SUKKAH CITY, 2010
Plug-in Ritual, ceremony
Food as a way of opening conversation
Visualization of conflict
Cover Constructed out of other’s materials
SPACE I SAY I VEND FOOD ON THE FOOD
Functional: fullfilled needs
BEAUTIFICATION PRIVATIZATION SECURITIZATION
STREET : HERE’S WHAT IS ALSO POLICY BORDERS COMMODIFICATION BEING SAID LANGUAGE PLACE FOOD JUSTICE
HOMELESS VEHICLE PROJECT
At Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, a community of residents, local business owners and street vendors have gathered to protest against the expansion of the Jackson-Heights Corona BID, a project that strives for a “cleaner and safer” street (http://jhcoronabid.org/, n.d). This group of people came together to fight not only for the beautification of a street but the right to access that street for their needs. Roosevelt Avenue is a cultural diverse street where various identities live and negotiate their access to and performance in public space. The street vendors are crucial actors in these claims as they gather and fight to maintain for their place of work and their way of food production and
Plug-in Urban strategy Educational devise Scale Mobile Exchange
Rethinking an existing structure
THE VENDORS VISION PROGRAM Voice Above: Word bubble representing associated, inherent terms and topics discussed when talking about street food vending.
Above: Influential case studies for the Vendors Vision Program.
that enable the population to collectively fight for the right to the city. Essentially, public spaces are disappearing and dwindling. To be able to transform and re-imagine these existing spaces, disciplines must refocus to put people at their forefront.
Bonnie Netel + Jessica Kisner
Privatization, commodification and securitization are threatening our cities’ public spaces and the ability of people to appropriate such spaces. Specifically, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and private-public partnerships that are forming throughout the city. Business Improvement Districts lead to the disappearance of an active community, erase existing traditions and cultural manifestations and place all city decisions in the hands of consumptive enterprises (Low and Smith, 2006; Zukin, 1995). In a city like New York, such measures have had long-term social impact on cultural image. With these strong paradigms driving how these spaces are designed, few spaces exist for freedom of expression and appropriation. Currently, sixty-nine BIDs exist in the city (Neighborhood Development NYC, n.d), and this number continues to rise. The multiple voices that are being ignored due to “abstract space” −spaces of power and profit− (Lefebvre, 1991) have created a multiplicity of strangers
MAINTAINING PLACE THROUGH ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP & STREET FOOD VENDING
Above: Word bubble representing associated, inherent terms and topics discussed when talking about street food vending.
Above: Maps of actors and their relationships.
preparation. This thesis project recognizes the importance of the street food vendors, not only as insurgent citizens (Holston, 1999) of different cultures and traditions, but also as political actors that help claim and challenge existing notions and conventions of what should be done in the public space. Furthermore, street food vending occurs on the street not only to sell food but to manifest larger urban challenges and concerns such as: immigration, food justice, and public space access. In short, street food vending is an act of commoning that tactically claims the street. Therefore, the street food vendor cart is the point of reflection to highlight, illustrate and question greater issues that comprome todayâ€™s cities and public spaces. Through an object-based, programmatic and movement plan, the
Vendors Vision Program re-imagines and expands design to a greater field of social networking and community participation. The Vendors Vision Program employs the vendor street cart as a mean to connect the consumer with the producer in ways beyond materiality. As a means to open spaces for dialogue and active political participation, the cart reflects social, political and economical issues. Following this train of thought, the goal of The Vendors Vision Program is to open those spaces of expression in public space, to create an active citizenship and engaged community that has the tools to decide what should be done in their public space. Due to the sensitivity that surrounds the legalities of street vending practice, such as vendors that sell on the street without permits or a food vending license, The Vendors Vision Program directs its attention towards working with legally permitted vendors to
Above: Visual matrix for the many variables concerning street food vending.
visualize governmental pressures that govern this practice. However, this focus does not exclude non-permitted vendors from gaining access in the conversation but instead engages those voices as a means of representing the everyday in an understanding, conscious and respective manner. As Buchanans argues, design is directed to practical action, it “involves the vivid expression of competing ideas about social life” (Buchanans, 1985:7). The cart becomes the “pluralistic expression of diverse and often conflicting ideas” that needs to be examined for their implications and their communication (Ibid. 22). In synthesis, the Vendors Vision Program challenges larger city debates and topics of contradiction by empowering the community along Roosevelt Avenue with the street vendor cart as a performative object to embodies their narratives. This process is open for multiple strangers to discuss and tell their stories about their experiences in the street. Since the cart has been a mechanism of control over these voices, this spatial construct will be inverted to become the point of reflection and action for both the vendor and the larger community.
The Vendors Vision Program The design of the city is a field of contestation between different actors; nonetheless, in the case of Roosevelt Avenue, the actors are being active in the decision of their space making. This active citizenship brings a space for opportunity for the community to unite and to create new projects around their collective imaginary of space. These claims are therefore a living exercise of the right to the city that Harvey incessantly argues for, and represent a possibility for “collective action to create something radically different.” (Harvey, 2012:xvii) Claims, as Mandanipour (2010) suggests, can be made by powerful individuals and institutions, but can also be made by small organizations and individuals who want to shape their own space. These claims can determine and imagine how they want their public space to look; the absence of them, however, can also determine the future of a space. (Mandanipour, 2010) The city is a dynamic landscape constantly reinventing itself, generating new cartographies and new forms to navigate it. The social infrastructure that has been developed in response to the expansion of the BID opens the doors for new opportunities to rethink the notions of what it mean to be in public space and what is public
space. For these new opportunities to be able to happen, a new platform or stage needs to exist where people can get together and decide what should be done. This stage needs to be a place where knowledge can be transmitted, where dialogue and discussion are part of the everyday in projects oriented towards a common goal. The expansion of the BID has become a platform to discuss important issues in the community and a greater discussion about the public space, but there needs to be another outlet that can discuss other alternatives and defy other notions of public.
Restricted Permit to vend
Parks and Recreation Office of Administrative Trail and Hearings
if a No ven tic do eo rr f V ece iol iv ati es on a :
Permit for the Cart
one of the 4 Tribunals of: “enforced” by:
License to Vend Food through
The Vendors Vision Program gathers all people in public space, including artists and street food vendors, with labs that discuss public space through the lens of street food vending. The leaders of this process are artists from surrounding neighborhoods, pushing temporal, three hour long workshops to activate as many discussions and graphics as possible. During this process, visual and graphic materials are produced to exist in public space that build a movement for using the right of freedom to free speech.
The design of the city is a field of contestation between different actors; nonetheless, in the case of Roosevelt Avenue, the actors are being active in the decision of their space making. This active citizenship brings a space for opportunity for the community to unite and to create new projects around their collective imaginary of space.
Processed by: mitigates process to make sure vendor has tax clearance Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene
Sets guidelines for permit and license
1996 Intra-City Agreement set to connect DOHMH & DCA
Mimics DOHMH regulations
Above: Laying out the agencies and processes a person faces if he or she wished to vend.
contest in court through the:
AREA OF STUDY 1.92
PROPOSED BID- JACKSON HEIGHT-CORONA PLAZA
2 KM (1.19 MILES)
EXISTING BID 82 ST STREET VENDORS
PARK OF THE AMERICAS PS 307
NEW PLAZA- 90 ST.
PS 19 COMMUNITY PLAYGROUND
82 ST BID PUBLIC LIBRARY
CORONA PLAZA-103 ST
CORONA PLAZA 104 STREET & ROOSEVELT AVENUE
JUNCTION BLVD & RO
90 STREET - ELMHURST AVE
Above: Area of work: Roosevelt Avenue, Queens.
Article 17-307: Judge determines the fine for carts that are in bus stop, w/in10 ft. of crosswalk/subway/driveway
Article 17-307: Judge determines the fine for carts that are against a building or structure
Article 89: $1000 fine for failing to have a permit decal on the cart
Article 89: $1000 fine forcrosswalk/subway/drivewa the cart not abutting the curb
thattaking are against b Article 89: $400 fine for for thecarts cart upamore than structure 10 feet of linear space on the sidewalk
Article 17-307: Judge determines the fine for carts that are on a sidewalk than 12’thwide. Article 89:less $1000 fine for
89: $400 fine the non-processing Chapter 6.01 24R RCNY-Article $200-$400 fineforfor 10 feet of linear space on th cart selling processing food
for carts that are on afine sidew Article 17-307: Judge determines the for carts that are vending at restricted time or place
Article 17-307: Judge dete for carts that are in bus stop
Article 17-307: Judge dete
Article 89: $1000 fine for fa decal on the cart
D E F
Article 17-307: Judge dete
Chapter 6.01 24R RCNY- $2 cart selling processing food
Article 17-307: Judge dete for carts that are vending a
A Above: Fines if the above regulations are broken.
Private and institutional forces are compromising public spaces. Specifically, the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are spreading across New York City to clean and beautify the streets, sterilizing these spaces from cultural appropriations. As a business on the street representating New York City culture, the Vendors Vision Program utilizes street food vending as the mechanism for reclaiming public spaces, allowing for people and communities to exchange knowledge with decision-makers, and transforming the public-private paradigm. Given the immense amount of regulation governing the street food vendor cart and the space in which it is allowed to be situated, the cart becomes the spark for seeing how street food vending practice is currently creating a commons on the street through language, food and space. As a commons, the street food vendor cart is the physical device that grabs attention to the street and portrays messages of desires and concerns through the Vendors Vision Program. By appropriating the umbrella or adhering a poster produced by discussion in the space of confliction, these items are using opportunities that the law does not regulate. This is to reflect not only the vendor but also the community in which the vendor assimilates.
Above: Implementation of Vendors Vision Program, using the umbrella as a tool for reactivating space as public.
Through the transference of knowledge through discussion and graphic development workshops, the Vendors Vision Program specifically breaks down into the object, program and movement, to allow for the vendors to individually exist as a business on the street but also form a visual
82 STREET & ROOSEVELT AVENUE
collectivity for protesting against the pressures that restrict them. Street food vending is an everyday practice that speaks to issues of immigration, racism, public space, and endless further conversations. The Vendors Vision Program resonates within these narratives to project a story to the city, as the city, for a better and more just city.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS Bonnie Netel received the MS Design and Urban Ecologies in May 2014, directly after earning her Bachelor of Architecture from Philadelphia University in 2012. Following Parsons, she was the Summer Program Fellow for Hester Street Collaborative where she assisted with the design and implementation of various community design projects. She currently works at an architecture firm in Philadelphia. Jessica Kisner is a social anthropologist with a strong background in research and fieldwork. She is a co-funder of a transdisciplinary landscape firm in Bogota- Colombia, seeking to bridge the social science with Design and focusing primarily in how to empower citizens to engage in the planning and decision making of the urban fabric.
RETHINK THE BLOCK Illuminating Illusions: Southbridge Towers and the Myths of Mitchell-Lama Privatization p.74
MS Design and Urban Ecologies
ILLUMINATING ILLUSIONS: SOUTHBRIDGE TOWERS AND THE MYTHS OF MITCHELL-LAMA PRIVATIZATION Charles N Chawalko
“Repeatedly, in the City’s history, prophets of doom have solemnly declared that the tiny tip of Manhattan which was has for so long been the financial capital of the world was moribund and its early demise was foretold. Such mournful predictions were most recently made in the 1940s when a few major commercial enterprises decided to seek a change of scene and moved to midtown Manhattan. The first few moves were seen as bellwethers of a rush that was to leave the downtown area a ghost town.”(1) – Planning for Lower Manhattan, a Report to the Downtown Lower Manhattan Association, Inc. (i) New York and real estate have been tied to one another like Venice and trade or Jerusalem and religion. These ties become critical to understanding the fabric in which the city operates, by what code citizens must work by, and how the essence of urban governance has, been, and will be conceptualized. The story of Lower Manhattan is one that is far more than just land deals, redevelopment plans, state authorities, and conflicts of interests; it is one that is centered on housing and people living among these phenomena. This particular case is a personal one: a story of the Southbridge Towers apartment complex my family has lived in since its inception as a MitchellLama construction project back in 1970. A Mitchell-Lama cooperative is a form of middle-income, affordable housing in New York State, where the state/city government will cover 90-95% of construction costs with a low-interest loan in exchange for a tax-exempt cooperative that can be sustainable and affordable as long as its residents’ incomes are annually accounted. This project planned to keep Lower Manhattan from becoming a ghost town; but, also, a prototype of the current Financial District as a burgeoning residential community as it is today. One must question: where do these residents and the affordable housing complex they call home fit in an equation when the neighborhood has succeeded in its economic revitalization? What happens to a MitchellLama cooperative once the area surrounding it becomes luxury-laden and the co-op itself is a forty-year old vestige to what ‘modern’ was? From these questions, the following manuscript will seek to address, analyze, and theorize on the relational dynamics between people, government, developers, institutions, and other entities in the economic transformation of Lower Manhattan from before, during, and after the fiscal crisis of 1975 up until the present day; and, can this knowledge be harnessed to inform and protect an affordable housing complex from being taken to the free market?
Above: Southbridge Towers Complex
(1) Planning for Lower Manhattan: A Report to the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, Inc. (New York, NY: Vollmer Associates, 1969), i.
Several narratives will be explored detailing the relationship between Southbridge Towers and policies or physical components that have directly or indirectly impacted it. When we start off, Southbridge Towers will not be in existence; but, the story of the neighborhood it had come to occupy will and it will progress from there. These will be discussed in a non-linear, intermingled movement, where a loose chronology of the housing complex will ground the discourse of this paper.
The Liberal Experiment & the City as a Growth Machine American cities share a unique urban legacy in that they have been founded within the legacy of colonization and beacons of the nation-state. While there are some exceptions to this imaginative commentary, a majority of cities – like New York – ought to be seen as apparatuses of the state – both federal and state government – with an inherent growth mechanism at the heart of its ruling order. These relationships loosen and constrict over time, as regimes, ideologies, and policies shift in any number of ways. However, one common trend that I have noticed in researching the ongoing legacy from before the fiscal crisis to the current day is that New York no longer maintains an autonomous nature – although, one could argue it never did. While the city commands an impressive amount of political, economic, and cultural influence, the modes in how governance and taxation operate are clearly within the realm of Albany; and, this relationship proves to be a finicky one as it sways with the dynamics between those who hold the seats of office in the various levels of governance. Progressively worse, the growing political stratification, even beyond the American left-right dichotomy, is holding a toll on how these systems of governance operate. When one looks to the legislative document that sparks the idea of the future Mitchell-Lama program, published by the Joint Legislative Committee on Housing and Multiple Dwellings in March 1954, the foreword ends with an interesting commentary on partisanship: “In closing, it is with real pride that I point to the fact that our Committee composed of members of both major parties, once again has completed a year of progress while, at the same time, continuing the policy which has been in effect from its very beginning, under which partisanship is never permitted to enter into our discussions and neither politics nor political considerations of any sort whatever are allowed to infiltrate the deliberations or actions.”(2) (2) New York State Legislature, Report of the Joint Legislative Committee on Housing and Multiple Dwellings (Albany: New York State Legislature, 1954), 11.
One must look at the implications that the Great Society programs had upon municipal budgets of urban governments; and, how labor’s contract negotiations lead to strains on the budget. Even as these federal programs for urban environments had positive intentions, little was focused on the ramifications that could be produced by placing greater social burdens on the municipal expenditures – especially in cities already experiencing the brunt of White Flight from the decades before due to suburban sprawl. The city had attempted programs and tax relief in order to preserve the tax base of the city with successes and failures, such as Mayor Lindsay’s efforts to enforce a ‘commuter tax’ in order for the city to increase revenue from the growing suburbs around the city. The clear fact is that the city realized that federal funding for municipal budgets would be decreasing; and, money will have to be derived from new sources. These trends and conditions had exposed a housing vulnerability in the postwar urban environment – an absence of affordable and safety-standard housing for those with moderate incomes – that market trends were not addressing. Kim Moody figuratively places New York City in a proper plane to discuss, “It is here that global capital meets local capital.”(3) In preparing this narrative, we need to establish how growth machine policies and tactics have come to define New York City’s modern history in how landlords, land use, and the media played and continue to play a role in impacting the determination of usage in the built environment. This is also not a unique situation to just the five boroughs; but a systemic network throughout the metropolitan region surrounding the world city at the core. “Within these thirty counties [surrounding New York City], the sheer number of local governments operates as a sponge for private sector interests. In different ways, these interests attach themselves to municipalities, townships, and special districts. Business influences land use, shapes taxes, affects infrastructure, and holds sway on most aspects of local politics – from financing candidates for office to setting the local agenda.”(4) Even beyond the legal urban domain of New York City, the market and corporate forces that have come to define policy in the city are even at work in the immediate suburbs. This renders the relationship clearer yet complicated; and, it harbors a significant impact the relationship the city maintains with suburbs, other cities, the state, the federal government, and the flows of international business. One such facet of this discourse in local government is the ever-clamored presence and creation of jobs. Molotch (3) Kim Moody, From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present (New York: New Press, 2007), 7. (4) Paul Kantor and Christian Lefèvre, Struggling Giants: City-region Governance in London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2012), 100.
The story of Lower Manhattan is one that is far more than just land deals, redevelopment plans, state authorities, and conflicts of interests; it is one that is centered on housing and people living among these phenomena. wrote, “Perhaps the key ideological prop for the growth machine, especially in terms of sustaining support from the working class majority, is the claim that growth makes ‘jobs’. Developers, builders, and chambers of commerce aggressively promulgate this claim; it becomes a part of the statesman talk of editorialists and political officials. Such people do not speak of growth as useful as profits – rather, they speak of it as necessary for making jobs. But local growth does not, of course, make jobs: it distributes jobs.”(5) Commonly seen in many of the proposals for redevelopment in Lower Manhattan is this looming specter of office space construction and job creation as if this production of built space is necessarily implicit for the provision of work for people. More often than not, city agencies and policies become preoccupied with pro-growth business metrics that they begin to overshadow other metrics that deserve tabulation – such as social, cultural, and historical ones as well. When we begin looking at New York City in the 1950’s, we witness an urban environment undergoing radical transformation in how city blocks ‘ought’ to operate, how the suburbs and the inner-city are to co-exist, how housing will come to be built in the face of attention being paid to suburbia, and how a city is to survive when industry begins to show signs of slowing down. Faced with business migrations to newly populating business district in Midtown Manhattan because of space and accessibility, David Rockefeller placed the corporate headquarters for his bank right downtown. It should also come as no surprise that it is located right across the street from the Federal Reserve (5) Harvey Molotch, The City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 320.
Bank of New York. One Chase Manhattan Plaza became the symbolic stand of the Rockefellers to stave off any further bleeding of lost investment from Lower Manhattan – and the hopeful restoration of the area’s former glory.
The Mitchell-Lama Program: A Brief History of Origins In the midst of post-war New York City, urban housing had become even more of a contentious policy subject for debate and conflict as demographic shifts occurred due to accelerating production of low-cost houses in the suburbs and the growing segregation within New York City Housing Authority housing complexes. The prevailing winds of the post-war city featured a belief in further increasing the density of properties, much accompanied by the ‘tower in the park’ urbanism as heavily promoted by Robert Moses, as the then-current housing stock was not up to modern standards and left to degrade through neglect.(6) During this time period, a State Senator and an Assemblyman from New York City had come together to form a response to the worsening housing conditions in the urban cores of the state. Assemblyman Alfred Lama was an immigrant from Italy who graduated from Cooper Union with a degree in architecture. He had practiced design in the city, until deciding to run for public office representing the Brownsville section of Brooklyn as a Democrat.(7) State Senator MacNeil Mitchell was a Yale-educated lawyer who served on the boards of Carnegie Hall and the New York City Opera. He spent twenty-seven years representing the Silk Stocking district on the Upper East Side as a Republican from a Democratic city in a Republican-majority legislature up in Albany.(8) He was known for his easiness in working with Democrats, and taking a moderate or liberal stand on plenty of social issues facing the city. These two politicians realized there was an issue with housing quality in the urban core that was not being addressed by the private-sector forces in real estate and construction. Crossing the aisle, they sought to find a potential policy and future legislation to substandard housing and the growing needs of white-collar workers for affordable and quality housing. In this collaboration, they discovered a growing population that wasn’t wealthy enough for the new apartment units coming on the market but also too affluent to even qualify for public housing or rental subsidies. This exposed a gap in the production of housing, and the needs of some members of society were not being fulfilled. Realizing that construction companies
and developers were burned out on building middle income housing in the city as there was not enough profit margins, there would need to be a serious incentive from the local and state government in order to make this housing a more appealing investment for developers. In 1955, Mitchell and Lama successfully passed the Limited-Profit Housing Companies Act in Albany as a means to provide low-interest, long-term loans for the development of middle-income housing as long as they maintained the affordable housing requirements as set by the Division of Housing (in 1960, Community Renewal would be added to the name, so it would further be known as the Division of Housing & Community Renewal – DHCR). In addition to these loans, the government would utilize eminent domain via urban renewal areas and slum clearance programs to demolish structures that were considered ‘sources of blight’ in order to ‘free up’ land. This vacant land would usually be merged with surrounding lots to create larger spaces; and, this land would be sold for as little as one dollar to construction firms in order to make the program operational with the loan agreement. It was also legislated later on that a complex or project could outright buy its remaining mortgage twenty years after completion so it could leave the program and its rent/income guidelines. Even when projects did buy out of the system early one, the great majority continued beyond the twenty years with the help of refinancing from state and city officials and tax breaks in the form of J-51 and extensions of the formal program. While this promoted a spurt in new construction for moderate and middle-income families, not everyone was so happy with this program. One major facet of this program that made it quite appealing to developers is the ensured rate of return as guaranteed by the structure of the program, ‘Limited-Profit’. Since the urban environment was nowhere near as valuable according to what today’s standards are; this guaranteed profit had become a potent thrust into getting developers to actually invest in constructing this specific type of housing. While this program has come to be colloquially known by its umbrella namesake – Mitchell-Lama, there exist several divisions within the legal framework that indelibly change how a project is viewed within the law and how the housing is administered in terms of government oversight. The biggest separation in this program is between cooperatives and rentals and this will be discussed in the next paragraphs. Another separation exists in who sponsored the
(6) Richard Plunz, A History of Housing in New York City: Dwelling Type and Social Change in the American Metropolis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990). (7) William G. Blair, “Alfred A. Lama Is Dead at 84; Mitchell-Lama Sponsor,” New York Times, January 4, 1984, accessed January 27, 2014. (8) Lynette Holloway, “MacNeil Mitchell, 92, a Legislator in New York State for 27 Years,” New York Times, December 20, 1996, accessed January 27, 2014, http://www.nytimes. com/1996/12/20/nyregion/macneil-mitchell-92-a-legislator-in-new-york-state-for-27-years.html.
Project Statement & Strategic Action
will never be at market trends. One could posit that there is an inherent Marxist notion to this setup as these legal measures indicatively prevent the speculation of housing as a commodity. It is a wise and secure assertion that the cooperative vision and version of Mitchell-Lama seeks to promote housing for a use value, as opposed to an exchange value.
Above: Planning: A map of the land use influences in Lower Manhattan circa 1969.
project in the original development agreement – as both city and state each created ML buildings although different rules applies to each. For example, some city-sponsored ML complexes are experiencing unit consolidations – as in locating and downsizing those tenants living alone in two or three bedroom units. Cooperatives operate as they are named; however, the legal stipulations as set by the DHCR provide that the complex is beyond the boundaries of the real estate market. In order to provide and maintain their affordability, the main management body, as set by the housing company that built the project, will be the distributor of units and control the means of transferring ownership of said units. In this system, there is no way an ‘owner’ in a Mitchell-Lama coop can sell the unit on the open market legally; and, that is why subletting becomes a source of scandals and court cases. Additionally, the cooperative is no longer required to pay a property tax; and, instead, they pay a shelter rent tax, which is ten percent of the maintenance/rental rolls plus utilities.(9) This facet further guarantees the affordability of the complex, as larger, multi-building complexes will be assessed at market standards; but their gross income (9) Raanan Geberer, “The Mitchell-Lama Buyout Process,” The Cooperator, July 2005, accessed February 18, 2014, http://cooperator.com/articles/1171/1/The-MitchellLama-Buyout-Process/Page1.html.
However, the notion that a housing program conceived by politicians from a global city had Marxist overtones in passing legislation is quite comical; but, while they may share similar, good-willed principles, the difference lies in intention. Although this housing cooperative sounds quite beneficial and fair-minded to people, we experience the same issue as the job creation paradigm in the ‘urban growth machine’ dogma utilized by local governments. Government programs and policies are pushed at having society at heart; but no one seeks to find what might be the ulterior motives to those public promulgations. What speaks more truth on government’s desires is in how and where they placed these coops and rentals. It should not come as a surprise that they are primarily located in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn – all major sites of the city’s history of slum clearance and urban renewal; but, also, areas with vested interest by the landowners and developers seeking a secured thirty-year investment. Moreover, these very building placements fall in line with a program of disrupting the growth of ‘blight’ (as stated by post-war planners) and reincorporating a more affluent population to a desolate area for the hopes of raising property values as well as building a community with purchasing-power. In comparison, there is a Mitchell-Lama rental program; and, while they follow the same legal principles, its execution and intention can be far different. Firstly, the program is far more tenuous in how they handle affordability, as tenants are not ‘owners’ of their dwelling unit. While the ML-rental complex might be kept affordable by shelter rents and the same income-regulatory codes set forth by DHCR, tenants retain a lease that gets approved with annual submissions of an affidavit affirming occupants, familial relations, and income. From a legal standpoint, there is one more differentiation and it is a temporal one: complexes built before 1974 and ones built after 1974 have different legal implications.(10) Rental complexes that were built before 1974 have a provision that they must remain under rent stabilization laws after opting-out; however, ones built after 1974 do not feature that clause. Based on these comments, most (10) Eliot Brown, “Increasingly, Mitchell-Lama Beneficiaries are Opting Out,” The New York Sun, February 6th, 2007, accessed March 1, 2014, http://www.nysun.com/new-york/ increasingly-mitchell-lama-beneficiaries-are/48110/.
Above: Nathan Sobel: An archived image of the Brooklyn Bridge Southwest Urban Renewal Plan’s boundaries and parcels, the majority of which would become the future home of Southbridge Towers.
policymakers involved with real estate see Mitchell-Lama as being an experimental, timed-benefit program and not a permanent source. Conversely, the original legislation never speaks about ‘buy-outs’, ‘privatization’, or ‘going marketrate’. Only when it was amended in the 1960s did it allow for voluntary buyouts – and cooperatives were included in the same lump as rental buildings. On another level, there has to be a discussion of whether or not the program was scheduled to be permanent or timed. This troublesome long-term, strategic ambition is quite ambiguous; and, it completely situates a battle over privatization in the current day. Because of this very ambiguity in detail, it becomes impossible to discuss specific policy over long-term goals, as different people will hold very different interpretations of said law. One such belief was indicated by MacNeil Mitchell towards the end of his life that specifics on longterm strategy were not set in stone because there was an implicit belief among politicians and policymakers that the ‘housing crisis’ would be solved in the future – and such a program would no longer be needed or supported. (11) However, since this is clearly not the case, we become witness to the battles of privatization, as this was a policy gap that was not closed. (11) David Schwartz, “Mitchell-Lama,” The Gotham Gazette, April 1, 2001, accessed March 5, 2014, http://www.gothamgazette.com/iotw/mitchell-lama/.
As New York City is facing a seemingly perpetual housing crisis, our affordable housing systems are under attack from a variety of forces – and my home is one of the very battlefields of this struggle.(12) The project phase of this thesis builds off of the research phase via a reflexive understanding in how the concept of privatization sparked in a public mindset – and how do we develop a strategy in changing hearts and minds. This campaign is composed of preparing an analysis of the Black Book (the voted-upon plan that dissolves the Mitchell-Lama), the creation of an informative flier series, developing a strategy for candidates in the Board of Directors election, and mediating the ideologically polarized arena the complex has become. In this process, we are trying to address the ‘mythos’ of privatization – how the conversation is dominated and how the lies are spread. There are two goals associated with this project: a short-term one in assisting the leader of the Soutbridge Towers Shareholders Association with his campaign for the Board of Directors of SBT and a long-term goal involving the overarching battle on the reconstitution of Southbridge Towers as a private, market-rate cooperative in the provision of factual, non-politicized information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Charles Chawalko is an urban researcher, historian, and mapmaker with a careful eye on how government policies can influence the society’s existence within the built environment. He has spent time developing maps for 596 Acres in their Urban Reviewer project, the first mapping of New York City’s urban renewal plans, and currently works as a mapping research assistant for the Morris Justice Project in a counter-mapping project with residents of the South Bronx. (12) Irene Plagianos, “Southbridge Towers Residents Debate Affordable Housing Complex’s Future,” DNAinfo New York, April 29, 2014, accessed April 29, 2014, http:// www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140429/financial-district/southbridge-towers-residentsdebate-affordable-housing-complexs-future.
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Reference Interviews: P. Rincon, October 16, 2013 M. Gonzalez, October 23, 2013 S. Obregon, October 26, 2013 I. Giraldo, October 28, 2013 C. Martinez October 16, 2013
Vamos Unidos members, February 26, 2014
Illuminating Illusions: Southbridge Towers and the Myths pf Mitchell-Lama Privatization - Charles N Chawalko Books:
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Online Resources / PDFs:
|Beauregard, Robert. “The Textures of Property Markets: Downtown Housing and Office Conversions in New York City.” Urban Studies 42.13. 2431-445. 2005. Billies, Michelle C. “Producing Bodies, Knowledge, and Community in Everyday Civilian Struggle Over Surveillance.” Order No. 3561570, City University of New York, 2013. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1367603731?accountid=12261. Defilippis, James. “FROM A PUBLIC RE-CREATION TO PRIVATE RECREATION: The Transformation of Public Space in South Street Seaport.” Journal of Urban Affairs 19.4. 405-17. 1997. DeSalvo, Joseph S. “BENEFITS AND COSTS OF NEW YORK CITY’S MIDDLE-INCOME HOUSING PROGRAM.” The Journal of Political Economy 83, no. 4 (08, 1975): 791. http://search.proquest.com/docview/195402853?accountid=12261. Lang, Clarence. “Folkways and Stateways: Continuing Dilemmas of Housing, Race, and Place.” American Studies 52, no. 3 (2013): 27-39. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1425424957?accountid=12261. Lansing, Melissa. “Terrorism, Securitization of the Nation and Refugee Flows: Implications of Policies and Practices in a Post-9/11 Era.” Order No. MR49230, University of Ottawa (Canada), 2007. http://search.proquest.com/ docview/304738346?accountid=12261. Lehrer, Kenneth Eugene. “COOPERATIVES AND CONDOMINIUMS: URBAN HOUSING ALTERNATIVES FOR THE PRIVATE RESIDENTIAL SECTOR.” Order No. 8027904, New York University, 1980. http://search.proquest.com/docview/303025770?accountid=12261. MacDonald, Ian Thomas. “Labour and the City: Trade Union Strategy and the Reproduction of Neoliberal Urbanism in Toronto and New York.” Order No. NR88687, York University (Canada), 2011. http://search.proquest.com/ docview/1082282080?accountid=12261. Mayer, Martin. “Default at the New York Times.” Columbia Journalism Review 14, no. 5 (Jan 01, 1976): 16. http://search.proquest. com/docview/1298116579?accountid=12261. Mogilevich, Mariana. “Designing the Urban: Space and Politics in Lindsay’s New York.” Order No. 3514389, Harvard University, 2012. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1027935198?accountid=12261. Rose, Daniel. “The Theology of Rent Control: History of Low Income Housing.” Vital Speeches of the Day 69, no. 21 (Aug 15, 2003): 670-672. http://search.proquest.com/docview/221455275?accountid=12261. Quinn, Sarah Lehman. “Government Policy, Housing, and the Origins of Securitization, 1780-- 1968.” Order No. 3449061, University of California, Berkeley, 2010. http://search.proquest.com/docview/861338626?accountid=12261. Ring Adams, James. “Why New York Went Broke.” Commentary 61, no. 5 (May 01, 1976): 31. http://search.proquest.com/ docview/1290112173?accountid=12261. Schuilenburg, Marc. “The Securitization of Society: On the Rise of Quasi-Criminal Law and Selective Exclusion.” Social Justice 38, no. 1 (2012): 73-89. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1022716228?accountid=12261. Starr, Roger. “New York’s Crisis’ and Washington’s.” Commentary 66, no. 6 (Dec 01, 1978): 49. http://search.proquest.com/ docview/1290146493?accountid=12261.
Newspaper & Magazine Articles:
Cheslow, Jerry. “If You’Re Thinking of Living In/Co-Op City; A City, Bigger than Many, within a City.” New York Times, Nov 20, 1994. http://search.proquest.com/docview/429947453?accountid=12261. Hertzberg, Daniel. “Subsidized Shelter: New York Housing Aid to the Middle Class Costs Everyone Plenty; Taxpayers must Cover Losses of Mitchell-Lama Plan.” Wall Street Journal 192, (1978): 1. http://search.proquest.com/ docview/59026999?accountid=12261. Newsom, Robert T. “Limited-Profit Housing--what Went Wrong? New York City’s Mitchell- Lama Housing Program is in Financial Trouble; Inept Management, Poorly Conceived Legislation and High Interest Rates Combine to Impose Serious Burdens on the City’s Already Troubled Budget.” New York Affairs 2, (1975): 80-91. http://search.proquest.com/docview/59627524?accountid=12261. Pacenza, Matt and Priya Khatkhate. “Legislating Stability: Rent Laws could be Mitchell-Lama’s Last Hope.” City Limits 28, no. 5 (05,
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