Category Archives: Blog

Resilient Organization/Resilient Community

This summer, I learned that Facebook is no longer cool and climate change is depressing. I was standing in a room of Oakland high schoolers, attempting to teach them about how to use social media to spur action and understanding of climate change, instead thinking, “I guess I’m not cool anymore”. I had been talking about Facebook Live and its potential for talking about climate change, a platform for getting your voice out there with facts presented in a digestible way. But the response I was getting was, “No one even uses Facebook anymore! Only my mom…We just use Instagram”. My social media knowledge was clearly out of date and I had to adapt to new formats of thinking and demonstrating ideas visually and textually. 

High school fellows from the Climate Justice Youth Leadership Academy water the garden at Street Academy. (All photos and graphics by author.)

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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.

Chinatown Hunger Strike: The Crisis of 83-85 Bowery

Photo credit: National Mobilization Against Sweatshops

On January 18th, over 80 people were evicted from their homes at 83-85 Bowery in Chinatown by landlord Joseph Betesh. Claiming that 85 Bowery’s staircase was structurally unsound, Betesh ordered the low-income tenants of both buildings out of their homes into the freezing winter cold. The vast majority of those displaced were housed in rat-infested hotel-turned-homeless shelter seven miles away in Brownsville, Brooklyn. On Thursday, February 8th, four of the tenants will begin a hunger strike to pressure the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to repair the neglected building and prosecute Betesh for his slumlord tactics.

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“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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The City is the Factory Panel Discussion

The City is the Factory from Cornell University Press.
The City is the Factory from Cornell University Press.

On Monday November 6th, Gallatin’s Urban Democracy Lab (UDL) hosted Miriam Greenberg, Penny Lewis, and Daniel Aldana Cohen, contributors to the new book, The City is the Factory: New Solidarities and Spatial Strategies in an Urban Age. The conversation dived deeply into what would constitute a truly sustainable city. This panel honed in on the exciting prospects of progress that exist in the future of cities, focusing on the connection between urban longevity, labour rights and disaster relief response. 

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Capital City of Contraband: How a Railroad Made and Unmade an Ethiopian City

Historical photo of the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, undated.
Historical photo of the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, undated.
Historical photo of the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, undated. From the Director of the Chemin de Her Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway Company.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has been compared by residents of of Dire Dawa to the Nile in Egypt—like the Nile, the train was a trading route, a mode of connection, a source of livelihood, a resource. Just as cities can be born based on natural geography, at the mouths of rivers and at ports, infrastructure creates new focal points in the built environment for urban life to develop and flourish. The railway infrastructure altered the geography of the region and provided a connective route across another man-made creation—the border between Ethiopia and Djibouti. 

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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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Capital Sinks: Urban Eco-Resilience In the Face of Capitalist Power Structures

“What should cities of the future look like?”

This was one of the questions posed by Ashley Dawson, an author and member of a panel on Friday, November 3, 2017 panel, Urban Futures. The conversation, held at the CUNY graduate center, was sponsored by The Center for the Humanities. Kendra Sullivan, the associate director of The Center for the Humanities, kicked off the event by introducing the speakers. The panel also featured architect Catherine Seavitt, environmental activist Mychal Johnson, and urban theorist/author David Harvey. The discussion centered around the current and “extreme” state of cities, the progress that has or hasn’t been made since Hurricane Sandy, and what prospects for radical transformation lie in the cities of the future. 

November 3, 2017 panel, "Urban Futures" at the CUNY Graduate Center.
November 3, 2017 panel, “Urban Futures” at the CUNY Graduate Center.

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The Outer City: Laïcité and Lack in France’s Postcolonial Banlieues

“Territories have geographic, economic, political, and cultural centers, and suburbs are their nerve endings. They are as fragile as any entity that has grown too quickly; they nourish fantasy and reinforce a good number of questions concerning our time.”

– Cyrus Cornut, Voyage En Peripherie (Journey on the Outskirts)

City Center, Paris
City Center, Paris (All photos by author)

A month after 9/11, a soccer match was held in Paris between France and Algeria. It was October 2001, but this was the first face-off between the two countries since Algerian independence in 1962. Yet, the game became monumental for another reason. It was cut short when thousands of North African-French youths stormed the field, booing and some chanting, “Bin Laden!” [1].

Years later, Fouad Ben Ahmed recalled the event in an open letter he wrote to then-President François Hollande, following the 2015 attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. (That year, two brothers forced their way into the newspaper offices, killing 12 people and injuring 11 others in a shooting spree claimed by ISIS). In his letter, Ben Ahmed identified himself as a banlieue resident and addressed his community’s joblessness and collective withdrawal. “The problem was before our eyes,” he wrote. “But instead of asking good questions, we chose stigmatization, refusal of the other. The split was born on that day, the feeling of rejection by the political class, when we could have asked other questions: What’s wrong? What’s the problem?”
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“El Barrio No Se Vende!”: Righteous Uproar at an East Harlem Rezoning Hearing

East Harlem Neighborhood Study Rezoning Proposal
Source: NYC Department of City Planning

At noon on October 11th, a hearing was held at New York City Hall to discuss the proposed rezoning of Manhattan’s East Harlem. The widely controversial plan, which calls for the upzoning of a 96 square block of the neighborhood also known as El Barrio, makes way for an astonishing 122,000 square feet for new restaurants and stores, 275,000 square feet of new industrial and office space, as well as 3,500 new apartment units. Despite ongoing backlash from El Barrio residents who fear that an remodeling of the working class, historically Latino neighborhood would displace longtime residents and destroy the character of the community, the plan was approved by the City Planning Commission nine days before the hearing. 

Naturally, gaggles of protesters waited outside the gates of City Hall prior to the event, many holding signs with slogans like “East Harlem is Not For Sale!” and “Mayor De Blasio, What’s in Your Wallet?” Protesters from groups like the Community Voices Heard (CVH) and the People’s Congress of Resistance made the rounds handing out literature detailing their opposition to the plan. One particularly striking piece featured the headline “TIME TO FIGHT BACK! Federal gov’t lets Puerto Rico starve – NYC gov’t drives Boricuas, poor people out of El Barrio with ‘rezoning’ plan.” Continue reading

After-Effects of the High Line

“After-Effects of the High Line” was held on Oct. 24 in Cooper Square at NYU. Throughout the evening, urban scholars and social theorists engaged with questions of hyper-gentrification surrounding one of New York City’s most modern landmarks. The self-moderated panel discussion featured brief presentations by the University of Oregon’s Christoph Lindner, Queens College/CUNY Graduate Center’s Brian Rosa and Queensborough Community College’s Julia Rothenberg before fielding audience questions and debate. Each offered invigorating insight into qualities of a place often perceived simply, as a pleasant public good.  

After-Effects of the High Line
After-Effects of the High Line discussion on October 24, 2017

Lindner opened the evening by noting that the public and academic response to the High Line has been generally celebratory. From tourist site ratings to environmental and economic development groups, the High Line has been lauded as an exceptional example of infrastructural reuse. However, Lindner and Rosa’s co-edited book, Deconstructing the High Line: Postindustrial Urbanism and the Rise of the Elevated Park, encourages a more critical engagement with the space. The Tuesday evening event, Lindner said, was about “bringing together a group of people to be difficult about the High Line.”

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The Future of The Hole: New York City’s Most Forlorn Bordertown

Situated in a grim, nondescript corner of the wealthiest city in America, miles away from the shining skyscrapers of Park Avenue and the cocktail parties of Wall Street, there is a place known simply as “The Hole.”

The geographic boundaries of the Hole, from Google Maps
The geographic boundaries of the Hole, from Google Maps

Long known as body dumping ground for mobsters, the Hole lies far below grade level, lacks basic 21st century necessities like plumbing and street drainage, and is scarred by various failed and/or incomplete attempts at development and improvement. In the middle of a rapidly progressing metropolis, the Hole remains a fascinating example of a land that time seems to have forgotten — and one whose attempts to modernize have been fraught with corruption, neglect, and general dysfunction.

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