Category Archives: Blog

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Progressive-Era Public Schools of Charles B. J. Snyder Jean Arrington, Borough of Manhattan Community College

From our friends in NYU’s Art History Department:

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Progressive-Era Public Schools of Charles B. J. Snyder
Jean Arrington, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Wednesday, October 21, 6:30 pm
New York University Department of Art History
Silver Center, Room 301
100 Washington Square East (entrance on Waverly Place)

This talk examines one of the major contributors to the New York City public-school system, Charles B. J. Snyder.  As architect for the Board of Education, Snyder revolutionized the city’s schools during his thirty-year career, which coincided with the span of the Progressive Era. He used innovative construction techniques for health and safety.  By providing amenities such as gymnasiums, auditoriums, and science laboratories, he transformed the simple 19th-century schoolhouse consisting of just classrooms into the complex 20th-century school building that we know today.  And he “did that which no other architect before his time ever tried or did,” said Jacob Riis, “he built them beautiful.” More than half of Snyder’s 400 school buildings and additions still function today as public schools.  Architect and historian Robers A. M. Stern has deemed them “everyday masterpieces, among the great glories of our city.”  The history of Snyder’s schools shows how the United States has contributed to the provision of universal public education, especially in New York City, which remains today the largest public-school system in the country, as it was in Snyder’s day.

Sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians, New York Metropolitan Chapter and the New York University Department of Art History, Urban Design and Architecture Studies

Link to flyer for event:

–Free and open to the public–

Introducing Our New Blog Co-Managers!

We at the Urban Democracy Lab are thrilled to welcome aboard two talented NYU undergraduates, Abiral Chitrakar Phnuyal and Kai Bauer, who will be sharing the duties of Blog Manager this year.  Expect more content covering a greater variety of topics, deeper analysis, regular updates on our activities, and the fresh perspectives that come from young social justice activists such as these.  You can read more about Kai and Abiral below.  If you are interested in contributing to the blog in the future, please contact us at

Abiral Chitrakar Phnuyal

Originally from Nepal, I’m a third-year student of the Humanities at NYU Shanghai. Strongly interested in the different forms and strategies of participatory movements, especially in a social justice context. Academic interests include world history, philosophy, and literature. Other interests include theatre, films, and hummus.

Kai Bauer

I’m a Charleston native currently attending the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. I haven’t created a concentration yet so my interests seem to evolve daily, but I am currently interested in Western involvement in global activism, the intersection of economic and sustainable justice, and humanitarian law. I am very excited to work with UDL and to create engaging, educational content for our readers!


Conference: America & Its Unfit: Eugenics Then & Now

AmericaUnfit“’Eugenics’”, writes Thomas Leonard in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, “is a dirty word in contemporary discourse.” Yet, for a number of speakers and activists who participated in a cross-disciplinary conference on the subject on the 25th and 26th of September at New York University, it remains an important concept for understanding the systematic exclusion and marginalization of communities in the United States today. Organized by the Asian / Pacific / American Institute at NYU and co-sponsored by the Urban Democracy Lab (amongst others), the conference, entitled America & Its Unfit: Eugenics Then & Now, brought together scholars, artists, and practitioners from a variety of backgrounds to highlight the role of the eugenics movement in American history and its continued effects in the present day, and to “collaboratively reimagine a more progressive future”. Continue reading

Urban Omnibus Writing Competition, “As Seen On ()”

Our good friends at Urban Omnibus have announced their fourth annual writing competition and we invite all of our writerly followers to apply.  Information is below and more can be found here:

Cities, to many, are synonymous with performance. Their landmark theaters loom large as civic architectures, while their role in incubating artistic communities is well recognized. But the greatest concentration of performers and their work has long taken place outside the proscenium arch — on the streets, sidewalks, plazas, piers, parks, esplanades, transit, and atria that make up the public realm. Continue reading

National Webinar Call — Victories 2015: A Resurgence of the Housing Justice Movement

From our friends at Right to the City:

Communities of color are fighting back, facing record displacement and exorbitant, ever rising rents.  Housing victories have been won in San Diego, Santa Fe, Richmond CA, New York and beyond!  They include:  Rent Control, Renters Bill of Rights, Just Cause Eviction, Historic Rent Freeze and Code Enforcement.

Growing Our Movement

The time is ripe to build on our momentum, expand our organizing to new cities and keep winning.  Right to the City’s Homes For All campaign is in 26 cities, 18 states, and all regions of the country.  Homes For All partners led or participated in each of these victories. Continue reading

Volunteer Opportunity with Democracy 2.1

Our friend, Asher Novek, New York Field Director for Democracy 2.1, has the following volunteer opportunity available.  Please be in touch with him if you are interested:

“This past Spring, Democracy 2.1 (D21) worked on bringing digital ballots to Participatory Budgeting in NYC. I’m reaching out now with another volunteer opportunity for another D21/PB venture this Fall.

“D21 is working with the City Council staff to bring our tool to the early idea collection and assessment stage of PB throughout the City.  We will be attending the community assemblies and the delegate committee meetings, and are seeking volunteers to help be the D21 staff at those meetings, working hands on with the Council staff and the community to use the D21 platform as a polling tool to engage constituents in the process of getting projects on the ballot, not just the vote itself.  Our aim is to provide the community a way to engage in the process earlier on and be involved in the deliberation so that the engagement continues through the vote itself. Continue reading