Category Archives: Blog

Criminalizing Dance & Movements Against Police Brutality On Screen: GET LITE and WHOSE STREETS at City Lore

The Lower East Side’s City Lore gallery exhibits and “preserves the grassroots, cultural heritage of NYC” through art showings and screenings. They recently hosted two important films on interrelated themes affecting the lives of young people of color.  They screened ‘GET LITE on June 17th, 2017 on a dance subculture; as well as that of WHOSE STREETS on October 11th, 2017 on the organization behind the Black Lives Matter movement and quality of life policing.  

WHOSE STREETS? Documentary

GET LITE exhibits the art of litefeet, “Litefeet is the new American dance; a dance done by hustlers and dreamers qua criminals; a dance of ambition and talent… a dance of underprivileged youth looking for a break in a city that criminalizes their movements”. “WHOSE STREETS” is a first-hand exposè of the continued police violence which followed the murder of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th 2014.  Directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis feature several of the voices involved in the initial rise of the prominent Black Lives Matter movement.  While WHOSE STREETS reshapes the narrative of mainstream media by focusing on the glaring malpractice of the police force in Ferguson, Missouri and highlighting the immense accomplishments of grassroots organizing, GET LITE uses the art form of Litefeet to frame a conversation on the criminalization of non-white youth in New York city.

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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
5-7pm
20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor

Full details here

 

Peter Moskowitz discusses How to Kill a City

What is perhaps most remarkable about Peter Moskowitz’s book, How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood is its accessibility and simplicity. Moskowitz joined the Urban Democracy Lab for a discussion on October 4, 2017. He presented on his new book, answered questions, and led a discussion on gentrification and housing justice movements.

How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality and the Fight for the Neighborhood by Peter Moskowitz. Nation Books, 2017.

Gentrification is a notoriously nebulous, complicated, and heated topic that is difficult to define and link historically. It is also something that is necessarily defined in terms of place, because it is so specific to the space that it is occurring in, and yet it is universal and follows similar patterns in many cities across the United States and the world. It is also, as Moskowitz shows clearly, a violent act, predicated on systems of oppression and colonization that have persisted for centuries. As Moskowitz says with regards to New York City, his hometown, “It became clear that for most poor New Yorkers, gentrification wasn’t about some ethereal change in neighborhood character. It was about mass evictions, about violence, about the decimation of decades-old cultures” (4).

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Discussing the Legacy of Jane Jacobs

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City directed by Matt Tyrnauer was release in the spring of 2017. The film details the life and work of the author and activist Jane Jacobs. After seeing Citizen Jane at IFC this summer, Gallatin Students and Urban Democracy Lab Student Advisory Board members Arielle Hersh and Luis Aguasviva sat down to discuss the film and the contradictory legacies of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. The film can currently be watched on Amazon Video or iTunes.

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. Credit: Library of Congress
Mrs. Jane Jacobs holds up documentary evidence at press conference at Lions Head Restaurant at Hudson & Charles Sts. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Luis Aguasviva (LA): Let’s begin by addressing the narrative presented in Citizen Jane Jane: The Battle for the City of Jane Jacobs (the hero) vs. Robert Moses (the villain).

Arielle Hersh (AH): Yeah, it’s very prevalent.

LA: It was framed as a David vs. Goliath story. The film directly attributes Robert Moses’s “demise” to Jacobs’s organizing efforts that stop Moses’s building projects in Washington Square Park and the West Village.

AH: I definitely agree that it oversimplifies what’s going on and breaks it down into that dichotomy, but at the same time I felt like it was a really good lens for someone coming to this story for the first time. It’s kind of the way I was introduced to urban planning – I remember hearing the story and seeing it set up as “Moses bad, Jacobs good, they go to battle, Jacobs wins, now we have planning.” We know that that’s not really what happened, but if you’re framing it for someone who isn’t really familiar with the story or with Jacobs, then it seemed like a good primer.

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Michael Hardt speaks on Assembly

Discussing Assembly with Michael Hardt

How can social movements succeed without centralized leadership? Michael Hardt tackles this question in his recent book Assembly, co-authored with Italian intellectual Antonio Negri. The Urban Democracy Lab co-sponsored a discussion of Assembly with Hardt on September 25, 2017. Hardt, best known for his trilogy of influential books co-written with Negri—Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth—is a key thinker in political left.

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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 housing.mortgage-deduction

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.”

Abstract:

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.”

Abstract:

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?”

Abstract:

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.

 

Ethan Earle: “Trump Is Trying to Make NAFTA Even Worse. It’s Time to Throw Sand in the Gears.”

From friend of the UDL, Ethan Earle, at In These Times:

Trump Is Trying to Make NAFTA Even Worse. It’s Time to Throw Sand in the Gears.

Many on the Left have been deeply critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) since before it was fast-tracked into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1994. Now, President Donald Trump’s current plan to renegotiate NAFTA is poised to make the massive trade deal even worse.

In late May, a loose coalition of civil society groups gathered in Mexico City to discuss this upcoming renegotiation. Participants included the AFL-CIO, Canadian Labour Congress and over one hundred other labor, environmental, and immigrant rights organizations from across Mexico, the United States and Canada.

The meeting produced a joint declaration opposing a Trump-led NAFTA renegotiation and marked the kickoff of the latest international campaign against free-trade deals that benefit corporations and political elites at the expense of workers, communities and our shared environment. . .

Read the rest of the article at In These Times.

Fearless Cities: A Dispatch from Barcelona

IMG_1171On the second weekend in June, hundreds of people flocked to Barcelona to discuss the idea of municipalism and radical democracy, broadly under the banner of “Fearless Cities.” This event also served to commemorate two years of progressive leadership throughout many of Spain’s city halls, including Madrid and Barcelona. Activists, mayors, city council members, academics, and NGO workers came together to explore such themes as “feminizing politics,” “sanctuary and refuge,” and “anti-corruption and transparency.” Despite these weighty ideas, the event was joyous and at times jubilant. During an opening conversation that served to welcome participants, Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau, the mayors of Madrid and Barcelona, spoke of friendship and intimacy even during our dark geopolitical moment. Indeed, despite this light tone, Trump was often in evidence. Continue reading