Category Archives: Blog

Dispatch from Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, October 2016

Courtesy Cancillería del Ecuador
“Travel and meetings facilities, Habitat III” Courtesy Cancillería del Ecuador

For those unfamiliar with Habitat III (also known as the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development), you might be interested to know that this global gathering, bringing together many of the world’s most influential urbanists, took place only a couple of weeks ago in Quito, Ecuador.  Habitat III, so-called because it is the third in a very-occasional series of conferences on the theme (the last, Habitat II, was held in Istanbul in 1996), set forth what it calls The New Urban Agenda, meant to manage urban development for the next two decades.  How much of this agenda and the conversations surrounding it are able to nourish some of its more democratic aspirations remains to be seen.  Our colleague, Prof. Sophie Gonick of NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, shared this dispatch from her experience at the conference. Continue reading

Coal, Communism and Borders: Professor Glassheim on the Czech City of Most

image01The city of Most in the Czech Republic was a unique case of socialist urban planning during the communist regime. Old Most was forcibly moved due to the large amounts of coal found under the city, which resulted in the creation of New Most. New Most became a “laboratory for the larger project of socialist modernization” due to its spatiality and industrial nature. Dr. Eagle Glassheim is a professor at the University of British Columbia whose research centers on environmental degradation in the industrial region of former Czechoslovakia. His new book, Cleansing the Czechoslovak Borderlands, offers a look at the the ethnic cleansing that took place on in the border regions as well as the movement of Most. Urban Democracy Lab contributor Kai Bauer sat down with Dr. Glassheim in Prague to discuss his research.

KB: Can you give a brief background of the city of Most as well as your new book?

EG: The book focuses on the borderlands of Czechoslovakia at the end of WWII and the postwar period as well as a city in the borderlands called Most. The city of Most was already an industrial region before WWII, but this accelerated quite rapidly after the war. Continue reading

Housing Research Helps Organizers Understand Williamsburg Issues

The summer research project of one of our 2016 GGFUP students, Tiffen McAlister, was profiled in the September 2016 issue of Williamsburg Now, a neighborhood publication by Southside United – Los Sures. Tiffen, “along with members of the Southside United – Los Sures organizing team combed the streets of the South Side to find residents with housing grievances and collected data to form a more comprehensive understanding of the community.” A scan of the full article, in both English and Spanish, is below (click the image to view full size).


“The Right to the City” and Urban Justice

_MG_6759 - CopyOn 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

New Law to Protect NYC Small Businesses

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

And the law here (PDF DOWNLOAD)

Albert Gallatin Lecture with Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr.

REVEREND JAMES LAWSON (11x17)-1A Way Through the Chaos

The man who introduced the principles of Gandhian nonviolence to leaders of the Civil Rights Movement visits Gallatin to deliver the Fall 2016 Albert Gallatin Lecture.

Co-sponsored by:
Africana Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA); CMEP; Vice Provost for Faculty, Arts, Humanities, and Diversity; Liberal Studies; MLK, Jr. Scholars Program; and Tandon School of Engineering

The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts
1 Washington Place

Oct 17, 2016 | 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

RSVP here

Keeping Cities Strong: A Mayoral Forum with the Presidential Campaigns on Transportation, Water & Energy

From our friends at NYU Wagner:

Date: 10/13/2016
Time: 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Location: SVA Theatre, 333 West 23 Street, New York NY 10011

Join NYU Wagner and the U.S. Conference of Mayors for a discussion with the presidential campaigns on why infrastructure is key to both economic security and public safety.

In their “2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” The American Society of Civil Engineers states that “Every family, every community, and every business needs infrastructure to thrive. Infrastructure encompasses your local water main and the Hoover Dam; the power lines connected to your house and the electrical grid spanning the U.S.; and the street in front of your home and the national highway system.” A strong and safe infrastructure is critical to support healthy and vibrant cities. Yet, many of our roads, bridges, water, and sewer systems in the U.S. are in serious disrepair. As infrastructure across the country continues to age and deteriorate, and as we become increasingly reliant on energy, cities are struggling to afford basic maintenance, much-needed upgrades, and new projects. It is imperative that the next President address these issues.

Surrogates representing both the Trump and Clinton campaigns will present their candidates’ views on infrastructure. Distinguished mayors from cities across the country will then question and discuss the candidates’ positions.

Read more at NYU Wagner

Exciting openings at Disclaimer Gallery and Casa Experimental: 2 anti-oppressive art spaces in Bushwick’s Silent Barn

Interview with Marta Hidalgo, Hope Gardens Senior Center, conducted by Cynthia Tobar
Interview with Marta Hidalgo, Hope Gardens Senior Center, conducted by Cynthia Tobar

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

Interview With Ruchira Gupta, Founder and President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide

Ruchira Gupta
Ruchira Gupta

On August 23, the Urban Democracy Lab sat down with Ruchira Gupta, founder and president of Apne Aap Worldwide,a grassroots organization in India working to end sex trafficking by increasing opportunities for girls and women.  We asked what she thought the root causes of sex trafficking were and what strategies might be employed to fight it.  We also learned about some of the projects she currently has underway and how those interested in these issues can get involved.

Your organization, Apne Aap, aims to end sex trafficking. What broad strategies do you feel are necessary to move in the direction of meeting this goal?

Continue reading

I Can Sell My Body If I Wanna: Riot Grrrl Body Writing, Feminist Resistance, and Neoliberalism: An Illustrated Lecture with Leah Perry

Riot_Grrrl_Convention_1992_by_RockcreekOn July 28, 2016, Professor Leah Perry of SUNY-Empire State College gave a lecture at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn titled “I Can Sell My Body If I Wanna: Riot Grrrl Body Writing, Feminist Resistance, and Neoliberalism,” based on her essay of the same name. Riot Grrrl was an underground feminist punk movement and subculture that originated in the 1990s. Perry’s talk focused on the ways in which the movement, in her view, reflected neoliberal ideology. Neoliberalism, a ubiquitous, though still enigmatic, term, is a late-20th century ideology that revolves around the  notion that government functions best when it encourages the free market, and that a growing, unrestricted economy will necessarily serve the public interest.  The result of this style of political economy is the privatization of public resources and a focus on individual innovation and self-cultivation as engines of human progress. Neoliberalism as a concept has grown beyond its political and economic agendas to shape culture, popularizing ideas of personal expression and achievement. Continue reading

“Brownstone Brooklyn: Pioneers in the Gentrification Movement” at Brooklyn Historical Society

TURN_OF_THE_CENTURY_BROWNSTONE_APARTMENTS_BEING_PAINTED_AND_RENOVATED_BY_THEIR_OWNERS_IN_BROOKLYN,_NEW_YORK_CITY..._-_NARA_-_555889To recent generations, the term gentrification is ubiquitous, often associated with the rampant displacement affecting low-income people. So, it may be surprising to most that the term was coined more than fifty years ago by the British sociologist Ruth Glass and entered the popular lexicon in the United States in the early 1980s.[1] Before “gentrification” was the word of choice to describe the return of affluence and capital to the long-decaying city, the media labeled this phenomenon “urban revitalization” and, in a New York context, “brownstoning.” Both were generally looked upon favorably by media outlets at a time when New York was emerging from both the fiscal and urban crises.  How brownstoning altered patterns of settlement in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the racial and ethnic landscapes of the city, however, are still under-examined. Continue reading