On October 3rd in the NYU Gallatin theater, MIT scholar Balakrishnan Rajagopal spoke to a group of students, professors and members of the community about the evolving human-rights conception of the “right to the city.” The crowd was largely more adult and professional than the audience at many NYU lecture events, based on the question and answer with the audience, and seemed to include New Yorkers working in areas from community organizing, urban planning, and academia. Many people scratched down notes as Rajagopal elegantly addressed imposing questions about the meaning of “the right to the city” and its uses in the fight for urban social justice. Continue reading
When we think of urban social challenges, the sometimes monster-of-a-term gentrification is one of the first issues that comes to mind. More than just describing the displacement of local communities by socioeconomically-advantaged tenants, gentrification is also synonymous with corporate displacement of local business. The two go hand in hand: consider youth (white, middle and upper class) who work in the arts and young professionals’ turnover of Williamsburg, and the new Whole Foods on Bedford Avenue.
The displacement of local individuals and families, communities, and their small businesses are symbiotic, which is why the Association of Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD) and United for Small Businesses, a working group of NYC community organizations, work against small business and non-tenant displacement. The ANHD and USB, who have “a particular focus on owner-operated, low-income, minority-run businesses that serve low-income, immigrant and minority communities,” see the New York City Local Law No. 77 as an important step forward in the fight against corporate takeover of NYC storefronts.
The local law has been passed “curtailing harassment of small businesses and other non-residential tenants,” providing the essential legal foundation for advocacy against unjust actions by landlords. This valid basis for appeal is invaluable, but ultimately, accessible resources for business-owners to make those appeals, enforcement of the protection, and fighting the power structures that motivate local tenant harassment in the first place, are just as necessary to the integrated fight to protect local NYC people, culture, community, and businesses.
Our allies at the ANHD released a statement applauding Local Law 77, authored by Councilmember Robert Cornegy:
“The displacement of neighborhood institutions not only threatens New York’s identity, but also eliminates jobs, community spaces, and affordable resources in low and moderate income communities of color. Small business displacement is cultural displacement. As the City’s small businesses disappear at an alarming rate, it is vital to implement robust protections to ensure their survival, invest resources to help them grow and thrive, and in turn ensure the vitality and vibrancy of New York’s neighborhoods.
This law breaks new ground when it comes to fighting small business displacement in New York City, but it also only scratches the surface of what our small businesses need. In order for this new law to be truly effective, funding for legal services must be allocated toward enforcing the commercial tenant anti-harassment law and the scope of tenant harassment must be clearly defined” and “call on City elected officials, agencies, and key stakeholders to move forward on the long road to creating real and meaningful protections, supports, and enforcement of the rights of small businesses across New York.”
Read the entirety of ANHD’s statement here http://anhd.org/city-enacts-new-small-business-protections/
And the law here legistar.council.nyc.gov/View.ashx?M=F&ID=4645613&GUID=06D7072F-541F-4068-A3B5-BB3C71137BBF (PDF DOWNLOAD)
On September 9th, an art show opened in Casa Experimental, a gallery nestled in the back of the cooperatively owned Bushwick art/music space Silent Barn. Organized by curators Cynthia Tobar and Aldo Soligno, as well as non-profit More Art, one of the many exciting points of the Beyond Bricks and Mortar project is the documentary interviews with seniors from the Hope Gardens Senior Center. In Spanish, with English subtitles, the interviews explore seniors’ lives and stories, often of raising their kids in the country they immigrated to, navigating the challenges to find the social ties and support they needed, and their experiences with NYC housing. The title of the show, Beyond Bricks and Mortar: Stories of Community and Resilience, points to the aspects of fighting gentrification through strengthening community and spreading education about our individual and collective participation for housing justice. Beyond the bricks and mortar struggle of resisting unjust development and housing practices by landlords and building owners, how do we resist? Continue reading