Author Archives: urbandemos

El Semillero (The Seedbed) at Loisaida Center

Our community partner, Loisaida Center, located at 710 E. 9th Street in Manhattan’s East Village/Lower East Side, is launching a community tech incubator for artists, technologists, and innovators committed to the creative and economic sustainability of the Loisaida neighborhood and its communtiy.  El Semillero (The Seedbed) is a community and Latinx led Tech, Media & Maker incubator at the Loisaida Center, which is set to launch in summer 2018.  The project has been in the pipeline for over five years, and Loisaida’s staff and allies are proud to be able finally to launch this enhanced and essential set of cultural services that affirm Puerto Rican, Latinx and LES working artists’ livelihood and innovation.


Click here for more information about El Semillero

Click here for a short video clip about Loisaida Inc

To help support the creation of El Semillero, please consider attending the February 27 benefit at Loisaida Center.  More information here.

“MUNICIPALISM IN SPAIN From Barcelona to Madrid, and Beyond” (repost from Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung)

From UDL collaborator Vicente Rubio-Pueyo, this December 2017 publication fromthe Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung’s New York Office previews some of the questions about municipalism that the UDL will be posing in the coming year. (Downloadable in English/Spanish via this link.)

From Barcelona to Madrid, and Beyond  
Vicente Rubio-Pueyo – December 2017

In Spain’s municipal elections of May 2015, a constellation of new political forces emerged. For the first time in almost 40 years of Spanish democracy, the country’s major cities would no longer be ruled by either the Partido Popular (PP) or the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE), or any of the other long established political forces, but by new “Municipalist Confluences” such as Ahora Madrid, Barcelona en Comú, and Cadiz Si Se Puede, to name just a few.

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Book Launch | Who Cleans the Park? 12/04 Monday | 6pm


Featuring UDL Director Gianpaolo Baiocchi….

Book Launch| Who Cleans the Park?

12/04 Monday | 6pm,

20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor Conference Room

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join for the launch event of John Krinsky and Maud Simonet’s new book Who Cleans the Park? Public Work and Urban Governance in New York City. Author John Krinsky will be present in conversation with Penny Lewis and Gianpaolo Baiocchi.

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After/Life Tells Untold Stories of the ’67 Detroit Rebellion

From friend of the UDL, Kristin Horton:

After/Life is a new play about the ’67 Detroit rebellion that braids together oral histories with archival materials, poetry, song, and dance, and is the first theatrical accounting of the rebellion told with a focus on the experiences of women and girls. Lisa Biggs developed and produced the script in Detroit, Michigan, under the direction of Kristin Horton, Associate Professor of Theatre Practice at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. After/Life was performed the last two weeks of July 2017 in conjunction with several community commemoration events that marked the fiftieth anniversary of the rebellion. Here Biggs and Horton discuss how the decision to offer the piece as a site for community commemoration shaped the content and aesthetic choices of the production.

Kristin Horton: Lisa, how did After/Life begin?

Lisa Biggs: When I moved to Michigan in 2013 from Chicago, Illinois, I knew very little Michigan history. That fall, stories about the collapse of the auto industry, police brutality, mortgage crisis and water shut offs, the emergency management situation, the poor conditions of the roads and schools across the state dominated the news. Michiganders around me specifically identified the issues of police brutality, workplace and housing discrimination, and nonresponsive elected officials as contributing factors to the historic and contemporary conditions….

Read the full interview here.

Latino City: A Book Talk with Dr. Llana Barber

From our friends at NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis:

Join Dr. Llana Barber to discuss her just-released book “Latino City” which interweaves the histories of urban crisis in U.S. cities and imperial migration from Latin America. Pushed to migrate by political and economic circumstances shaped by the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America, poor and working-class Latinos then had to reckon with the segregation, joblessness, disinvestment, and profound stigma that plagued U.S. cities during the crisis era, particularly in the Rust Belt. For many Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, there was no “American Dream” awaiting them in Lawrence; instead, Latinos struggled to build lives for themselves in the ruins of industrial America.

October 25, 2017
20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor

Full details here


Photos: Book Talk with Peter Moskowitz

Citymakers: The Culture and Craft of Practical Urbanism

https _cdn.evbuc.com_images_35530685_156387033538_1_originalFrom Cassim Shepard, who first workshopped the following book in our Culture/Politics Working Group:

Please join us to launch and celebrate the publication of Citymakers: The Culture and Craft of Practical Urbanism by Cassim Shepard, founding editor of Urban Omnibus

Citymakers draws from projects and perspectives featured on Urban Omnibus in order to argue for a more expansive understanding of how, and by whom, cities are made today. Shepard will present a brief talk about the ideas explored in the book and his vision of citymaking as a crucial arena of imagination, ethics, and action. Continue reading

The Criminalization of Womxn in America – Black Womxn and Girls

From our friends at NYU Wagner:

Part 1: The Criminalization of Womxn in America – Black Womxn and Girls

Presented by Students for Criminal Justice Reform and Wagner Women’s Caucus

Date: October 12, 2017

Time: 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Location: The Puck Building – 295 Lafayette Street, Rice Conference Room & Newman Reception Area, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10012

Womxn challenges the prevailing patriarchal belief that women are a subset of men and the lack of intersectionality on traditional feminist movements and discourse around “women’s issues.” At the height of mass incarceration, where approximately 2.3 million individuals are incarcerated, the conversation has been centered around the impact on men of color. Although that is a crucial conversation to have, it is important to discuss the rapid rate at which womxn are being incarcerated and marginalized as well.
Through a series of conversations, we will challenge the notion of criminalization through an intersectional lens. We will discuss the impact mass incarceration has had on womxn, but also broaden the conversation of criminalization to include the different ways womxn identities are oppressed. Note: Each conversation will have a different group and topic (ex. reproductive justice, trans women, etc.)

Speakers: Mariame Kaba, educator, organizer, and curator focused on transformative justice; Miyoshi Benton, Associate with the Women and Justice Project

Register to attend here

Call for action: engagée #6/7 “Radical Cities”

From our friends at engagée:

Cities are a place of repression, poverty and exploitation. Within the neoliberal order, cities labelled as smart are often laboratories of policing and control, racial profiling and state violence. And yet, cities are also a prefigurative space for political struggles and emancipatory practices. From the anarchist tradition to the social movements of the 20th century, the urban may be seen as a field for interventions because of its interconnected nature and the possibilities of building autonomous networks. It is therefore not a surprise that today citizens, activists and politicians are reformulating an interest in urban and local governing. Throughout Europe and beyond, we observe new forms of government at the municipal and city level, which are experimenting with democratic practices. These initiatives tackle corporate power and increase access to common goods like water, energy, housing and healthcare, as well as oppose privatisations, cuts in public services and the closure of borders. Continue reading

Why Your Mortgage Interest Deduction Might Be Bad Housing Policy

The home mortgage interest deduction is the largest federal housing subsidy in the United States. It is also, as the sociologist Matthew Desmond wrote in the New York Times Magazine, “what may very well be the most regressive piece of social policy in America.” Because this policy is an income tax deduction, it is most valuable to people in the highest income brackets—and in particular, to those who borrowed the most money in order to buy the very most expensive homes. That is an unusual way for a government to encourage the provision of

How did we end up with this peculiar social policy? Who benefits from it? And why, given its apparent disadvantages, does it persist?

The Mortgage Tax Reform Working Group met on July 15, 2017 at the Urban Democracy Lab to discuss several new research projects in progress on these questions. Three research presentations guided the discussion. The authors, titles, and abstracts of these presentations were as follows:

Joshua McCabe, “The Road Not Taken: The Politics of Mortgage Tax Relief in the U.S. and U.K.”


Both the U.S. and the U.K. introduced tax deductions for (mortgage) interest paid as part of their original income tax legislation. Whereas the home mortgage interest deduction (HMID) has come to be seen as an untouchable “third rail” in American politics, the British government quietly eliminated mortgage interest relief (MIR) in 2000. This paper traces the divergence in outcomes to the 1970s with an emphasis on the interaction between institutions and policy sequence. The 1974 decision of British policymakers to place a nominal cap on MIR led to substantial erosion in the inflationary decade that followed. This weakened political support, allowing successive governments to actively reduce and eliminate it between 1991 and 2000. The structure of American political institutions prevented policymakers from successfully placing a nominal cap on HMID until 1987, at which point inflation was back under control. As a result, the political cost of directly attacking HMID remains strong until this day.

Monica Prasad, “The Problem of the Wellesley Democrat.”


Contrary to popular perception, it is not impossible to reform the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction (HMID).  Congress has done so on at least two occasions.  The first section of this paper briefly discusses these two episodes in the context of several failed attempts to reform the HMID over the last half-century. One conclusion from this overview is that Democrats have in fact been able to reform the HMID when they have chosen to try. The second section then considers why Democrats may not be particularly interested in HMID reform today, asking whether this is because—as some commentators have speculated–demographic and partisan changes have led to a situation in which HMID reform would affect Democratic constituencies more than Republican ones.  Wellesley, Massachusetts, is an example of the kind of constituency that traditionally supports Democrats, but would be hardest hit by HMID reform. We use polling data and state and county-level analysis of election results to answer this question, but reach conflicting results: there is indeed a strong negative correlation between housing prices and Republican voting, at both state and county level.  But polls do not show income having an effect on respondents’ attitudes to HMID.

Isaac William Martin, “How Inegalitarian is the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction?”


Sociologists have described the HMID as a regressive subsidy for the rich, and have argued that it exacerbates economic inequality, especially inequality between black and white Americans. But just how much does the HMID contribute to inequality in America? This project presents new evidence about the incidence of the HMID from an analysis of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics that takes economic sociology seriously, by modeling alternative tax-and-transfer distributions that might be possible on the assumptions that housing markets are embedded in regulatory institutions, potentially characterized by path-dependent development, and segmented by status. I argue for a sociological approach to incidence analysis that involves comparisons among multiple counterfactual scenarios, judged on the grounds of their sociological tenability. By setting logical bounds on the parameter values considered in these scenarios, it is possible to show that the aggregate distributional effects of the HMID approach the maximally inegalitarian extreme, in the sense that almost any other way of distributing the equivalent tax revenues would reduce the inequality of disposable income. It is also possible to estimate bounds on the inequality-reducing effects of eliminating the HMID. In the simulations presented here, the effect of eliminating the HMID is shown to be, at most, a 4% reduction in selected measures of aggregate income inequality. Eliminating the HMID in favor of some more egalitarian tax and transfer policy of equivalent budgetary magnitude is not the largest egalitarian policy intervention that might be contemplated, but it is also not trivial.

In addition to discussing these three research projects, the Mortgage Tax Reform Working Group discussed the possible implications of these preliminary findings, debated other research priorities, and engaged in preliminary planning for a panel discussion of the comparative historical sociology of the HMID that will take place at the annual meetings of the Social Science History Association in Montreal, November 2-5, 2017.