Tag Archives: Democratizing the Green City Events

Democratizing the Green City: Sustainability and the Affordable Housing Crisis (Santa Cruz, CA)

Visit the event’s official website for full details 


Karen Chapple, Professor of City and Regional Planning, UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design; Director, Urban Displacement Project

Urban Displacement and the Sustainable City: Lessons for Housing Production and Preservation
Friday Feb 17, 5:00-7:00 pm , DARC 108, UC Santa Cruz


Saturday, Feb 18, 9:30 am-6:30 pm
Red Room of Rachel Carson College, UC Santa Cruz


Miriam Greenberg and Hillary Angelo, UCSC Sociology
Urban Democracy Lab/Democratizing the Green City NYC (NYU)
Critical Sustainabilities Project (UCSC)

This conference examines a paradox: urban sustainability initiatives that are so vital in countering climate change can, through their improvements, contribute to driving up rents and driving out residents, and in the process, exacerbate sprawl, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change itself. Our speakers examine this growing link between environmental improvement and social displacement and ask: How is it possible to break this link? What would it mean to include affordable housing and equity within sustainability efforts?  And what are the consequences—socially and ecologically—if we don’t?

 We begin with a focus on the housing crisis that is transforming our own state and region. Renowned for greening and sustainability initiatives—from transit-oriented development to locavore food sheds to green building—California is also home to the most unaffordable housing markets in the country, including Santa Cruz. Thus greening interacts with gentrification and increased consumption, declining diversity and rising inequality, displacement and longer commutes, and multiple environmental health and ecosystem impacts, including habitat fragmentation, loss of groundwater, and increased carbon footprints.  Our region, however, is not alone. We bring together a new generation of scholars, planners, and activists addressing ‘the housing question’ across the Americas —in Mexico City and New York, Seattle and Medellin, Sao Paulo and Oakland— as well as emerging strategies for democratizing the green city.  

Confirmed Participants

Hillary Angelo, University of California, Santa Cruz
Gianpaolo Baiocchi, New York University and Urban Democracy Lab
Joan Byron, Pratt Institute and Neighborhoods First Fund
Karen Chapple, University of California Berkeley and Urban Displacement Project
Melissa Checker, City University of New York (Queens College)
Daniel Aldana Cohen, University of Pennsylvania
Lindsey Dillon, University of California, Santa Cruz
Gordon Douglas, San Jose State and the Institute for Public Knowledge
Miriam Greenberg, University of California, Santa Cruz
Sarah Knuth, University of Michigan
Claudia Lopez, University of California, Santa Cruz
Oscar Sosa Lopez, University of Georgia
Steve McKay, University of California, Santa Cruz
Dawn Phillips, Causa Justa:: Just Cause and National Director, U.S. Right to the City Alliance
Jennifer L. Rice, University of Georgia
Julie Sze, University of California, Davis
David Wachsmuth, McGill University
Camilo Sol Zamora, Causa Justa:: Just Cause, Housing Rights Campaign


Urban Democracy Lab
The UCSC Sustainability Office
Rachel Carson College

UCSC Sociology Department
The Center for Science & Justice


Full details at democratizing-the-green-city.sites.ucsc.edu

Are the Benefits of Urban Greening Equitably Distributed and Perceived?

We are excited to be hosting an informal seminar with Isabelle Anguelovski from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona on January 10 here at the Urban Democracy Lab. Her recent work on environmental gentrification, which you can view here, intersects beautifully with our Democratizing the Green City Initiative. Melissa Checker will be our interlocutor.

Are the benefits of urban greening equitably distributed and perceived? An inquiry into new dimensions of environmental gentrification in the Global North and South

Abstract: Local activists engaged in contemporary environmental justice struggles not only fight against traditional forms of hazardous locally unwanted land uses (LULUs), they also organize to make their neighborhoods livable and green. However, urban environmental justice activism is at a crossroads: As marginalized neighborhoods become revitalized, outside investors start to value them again and invest in green amenities. Yet vulnerable residents are now raising concerns about risks of environmental gentrification and displacement. Their fear is linked to environmental amenities such as new parks, remodeled waterfronts, healthy food stores, and projects branded as climate-resilient. In this presentation, I examine how recent green urban redevelopment trends translate into possibly the ultimate urban environmental justice tragedy through new dynamics of marginalization accompanying green projects or amenities. Through case studies in the Global North and South, I analyze how specific projects developed under the label or discourse of green infrastructure planning, urban sustainability planning, or sustainable local food systems, might become GREENLULUS – Green Locally Unwanted Land Uses – for socially vulnerable urban residents because such agendas and projects create new patterns of reinvestment, and often speculation, exclusion, and displacement.

Bio: Isabelle Anguelovski is a social scientist trained in urban studies and planning (PhD MIT, 2011), non-profit management (Harvard University, 2004), international development (Université de Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne, 2001), and political studies (Science Po, 2000). Her research is situated at the intersection of urban planning and policy, social inequality, and development studies. Her recent projects examine the extent to which urban plans and policy decisions contribute to more just, resilient, healthy, and sustainable cities, and how community groups in distressed neighborhoods contest the existence, creation, or exacerbation of environmental inequities as a result of urban (re)development.

Isabelle is currently a Senior Researcher and Principal Investigator at the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) where she coordinates the research line Cities and Environmental Justice and directs the

Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability, a research laboratory carrying comparative and interdisciplinary research, developing new teaching methods and courses, and promoting learning on justice and inclusion for planning sustainable, green, and healthy cities. She is also affiliated with IMIM, the Hospital del Mar Research Institute in Barcelona. Since June 2016, Isabelle is coordinating the ERC funded project GREENLULUS (2016-2021), which examines the social and racial impact of urban greening in 20 cities in Europe and 20 in the United States.

Democratizing the Green City – Symposium

Summary: The quality of discussion at the symposium was extremely high. The geographic focus was North and South America, with occasional forays into other locales (like Julie Sze’s presentation on metro Shanghai). Much of the debate focused on the need to refine and expand our understanding of green gentrification and the mechanisms of displacement. There was also attention to the rhetorics of urban climate politics and their connection to new methods of carbon accounting, in the Americas and in China. A great deal of discussion focused on the different strategies and distinct dilemmas (political and cultural) raised by cities’ ecological imperatives in a neoliberal and warming world.

It must be noted, also, that thanks to the tireless work of symposium organizers and, especially, NYU Gallatin staffers, the symposium was a wonderful organizational success despite extremely adverse conditions: a winter storm during the conference’s main day, whose 25+ plus inches of accumulation ranked as the second or third single snowiest day in New York City’s history. Nevertheless, most New York and out-of-town speakers attended, and with some rescheduling of late Saturdayevents, we were able to conclude on Sunday morning with a final panel and wrap-up sessions.

For an additional report on the event, see the review on the UDL blog, written by NYU Gallatin student Rachel Stern.

From the event program:

Our symposium examines the link between environmental improvement and social displacement and asks how it is possible to break it. This dilemma has been addressed in a variety of disconnected literatures in urban studies, ranging from from neighborhood studies of urban gardens and gentrification, critical approaches to urban climate governance, to the global relationship between environmental urban planning and informal settlements, to anthropological critiques of development. We propose to unite these approaches within one analytical frame, examining them as cases of the same phenomenon in order to better specify the mechanisms by which environmental improvement leads to social displacement, thus identifying potential points of leverage at different scales that political actors can deploy. We focus on large cities from the Global North and South where we find strikingly similar dynamics, despite distinctive socio-economic contexts.

Gianpaolo Baiocchi, New York University
Daniel Aldana Cohen, New York University
Hillary Angelo, University of California, Santa Cruz
Miriam Greenberg, University of California, Santa Cruz


** Due to a historic snowstorm that hit New York during the symposium, panels were reorganized and the keynote address was canceled. The program as it was originally scheduled is below.


Daniel Aldana Cohen (Sociology, NYU) “Saving the Sustainable City from Itself: Carbon, Collective Consumption, and 21st Century Urbanization”
Ken Gould and Tammy Lewis (Sociology, Brooklyn College), “Green Gentrification and Environmental Injustice”
Melissa Checker (Urban Studies, Queens College, Anthropology and Environmental Psychology, CUNY Grad Center), “Industrial Gentrification in the Big, Green Apple”
Claudia Lopez (Sociology, UC-Santa Cruz), “Contesting ‘Double Displacement’: Rural Displaced Persons, Informal Settlements, and the ‘Medellin Miracle’”
Moderator: Andrew Ross (Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU)

Roger Keil (Environmental Studies, York University), “Greenbelt politics: Creating a space for democracy in the soft space of suburbanization”
Paula Santoro (Urban Planning, Universidade de Sao Paolo), “Policies ‘for environmentalists’ and ‘for the capital’ in São Paulo, Brazil: recent policies versus historical urban sprawl processes and social coalitions focused on economic development policies”
Sergio Montero (Urban and Regional Development, Universidad de los Andes), “Leveraging Bogotá:Sustainable Development, Global Philanthropy and the Increased Speed of Urban Policy Circulation”
Oscar Sosa Lopez (City and Regional Planning, UC-Berkeley), “Democracy and the green city: infrastructure, livability and the politics of immediacy in Mexico City”
Kristin Miller (Sociology, UC-Santa Cruz), “The Transit Network Society: transportation, technology, sustainability, and gentrification in the San Francisco Bay”
Moderator: Joan Byron, Neighborhoods First Fund for Community-Based Planning

Sarah Knuth (Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan), “Climate Retrofits in an Era of Urban Austerity: Green Financialization?”
Gabriela Merlinsky (Social Sciences, Universidad de Buenos Aires), “Environmental recovery and population displacement in Buenos Aires. Controversies over a towpath along the Matanza-Riachuelo River”
Karen Chapple (City and Regional Planning, UC-Berkeley), “Just transitioning: The fine line between neighborhood change and displacement”
Melanie Dupuis (Environmental Studies and Science, Pace University), “Democratizing the Green Suburb: Westchester as ‘Nature’s Metropolis’”
Miriam Greenberg (Sociology, UC-Santa Cruz), “Beyond Ecotopia: Displacement and Uneven Sustainable Development in the Green City”
Moderator: Gordon Douglas (Inst. for Public Knowledge, NYU)

Julie Sze (American Studies, UC-Davis), “Urban Eco-desire across time and space”
Juliet Schor (Sociology, Boston College), “Inequality, Eco-Habitus and the Emergence of the Platform Economy”
Hillary Angelo (Sociology, UC-Santa Cruz), “The ‘Green Screen:’ Urban Greening as Social Improvement and the Normative Power of Nature”
Gianpaolo Baiocchi (Sociology, Gallatin, Urban Democracy Lab, NYU), “Democratizing the Green City: The Politics of Expertise and its alternatives”
Antwi Akom (Africana Studies, San Francisco State University) and Aekta Shah (Harvard Graduate School of Education), “People Powered Placemaking 2.0: Smart Cities, Democratizing Data, and Re-Imagining the Green City for the Urban Poor”
Moderator: Carl Zimring (Social Science and Cultural Studies, Pratt Institute)

KEYNOTE ADDRESS: “Greening cities outside the central city: green urbanism in the global suburb”
A conversation with Roger Keil and Julie Sze
Introduction by Global Design NYU (Louise Harpman and Mitchell Joachim)
Co-sponsored by Global Design NYU

Democratizing the Green City is presented by the Urban Democracy Lab with funding from NYU’s Global Initiative for Advanced Studies and generous support from NYU Gallatin Dean Susanne Wofford.

Distinguished Faculty Lecture with Raquel Rolnik

Urban Warfare: the Colonization of Urban Land and Housing

Raquel Rolnik explores battles over housing rights in cities and suburbs all over the world. In discussing the ways that the commodification of housing has led to social and environmentally devastating housing policies, and how the financial sector with its unaccountable power increasingly underwrites those dynamics, Rolnik specifies some of the most pressing challenges faced by movements and allies that seek to democratize the green city.

Ms. Raquel Rolnik is an architect and an urban planner, with over 30 years of experience in planning and urban land management. She has extensive experience in the implementation and evaluation of housing and urban policies. Based in São Paulo, she is a professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo and is the author of several books and articles on the urban and housing issues. In her career, she has held various government positions including Director of the Planning Department of the city of São Paulo (1989-1992) and National Secretary for Urban Programs of the Brazilian Ministry of Cities (2003-2007) as well as NGO activities, such as Urban Policy Coordinator of the Polis Institute (1997-2002). She has advised national and local governments on urban policy reform and institutional development as well as acted as a consultant for countries and international cooperation agencies.

In May 2008, at the 7th session of the Human Rights Council, Ms. Raquel Rolnik was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She was the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing until the end of May 2014.

Watch a video recording of the event here

Democratizing the Green City | The democratic green city: From above and below

The twin disasters of environmental catastrophe and increasing socioeconomic inequality have dominated the first years of the twenty-first century. Around the world, people confront the relationship between the two by seeking to democratize the green city—some from above, some from below. Everywhere, they face massive obstacles. In this third and final session, we ask how top-down, government projects can be paired with grassroots organizing to democratize the green city. What transnational financial and governance circuits restrict democratic policy formation and implementation and grassroots influence? How can progressive politicians create their own networks to provide a democratic counterweight to these more coercive circuits? How can grassroots activists trust and work with politicians in this context? And how well do successful projects’ models transfer to new cities? We examine tensions common across cities of the global North and South—in particular, those between coercive transnational institutions and local democratic structures, and between progressive governmental projects and grassroots action. Greening cities means more than environmental remediation and ecological enhancements. To be socially sustainable they will also require a renewal of urban democracy.

Sapana Doshi is Assistant Professor at the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona. Her research is on the politics of global city redevelopment, eviction and resettlement in Mumbai, India with a focus on social mobilization among displaced residents of informal slum settlements. She has published widely on socio-ecological tensions in Indian cities.

Michael Goldman is associate professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. He is the author ofImperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization. His current research provincializes global urbanism, explores the making of Bangalore as a “world city,” and traces the disciplining power of finance in the global economy.

Joel Rogers is Professor of Law, Political Science, Public Affairs, and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Director of COWS, a think-and-do tank on high-road development. Rogers has written widely on American politics, comparative public policy, and political theory, including the books On Democracy, Right Turn, Works Councils, Associations and Democracy, Metro Futures, and American Society: How it Really Works. Uniting this diverse work is Rogers’ commitment to increasing the competence and power of democratic institutions.

Ron Shiffman is a city planner with over 50 years of experience providing architectural, planning, community economic development and sustainable development assistance to community-based groups in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.  In 1964, he co-founded the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development [PICCED], which is today the oldest continuously operated university-based community design and development center in the United States. He served on the New York City Planning Commission from 1990 to 1996 and as chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning in New York from 1991 to 1999. He now teaches full time at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at the School of Architecture at Pratt Institute. He is also organizing the School of Architecture’s coordinated effort to assist in the rebuilding effort after Hurricane Sandy entitled “Rebuild, Adapt, Mitigate and Plan” and has forged cooperative relationships between RAMP and the affected communities.

Following the speakers’ opening remarks and a brief round of responses, the audience will join in a discussion moderated by Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Associate Professor of Sociology at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study and Director of its Urban Democracy Lab. The author of Militant Citizens and co-author of Bootstrapping Democracy and The Civic Imagination, his work dissects the social processes of radical (and conventional) democratic politics in Brazil and the United States.

The Democratizing the Green City event series is collaboration between IPK’s Cities, Cultures, and Climate Change working group and the Urban Democracy Lab at Gallatin

View the video recording of this event.

Democratizing the Green City | Green urbanism beyond greenwashing: Four strategies

Cities will be greened. The question is how. Business as usual too often means greenwashing, exacerbating inequality and increasing the prospects for eco-apartheid. How can we, instead, democratize the green city by breaking the link between ecological enhancement and social displacement? On Earth Day, we explore four overlapping but distinct efforts to bring environmental sustainability and social justice goals together: through community planning, environmental justice, labor organizing, and urban design. What policy levels and bases for mobilization does each strategy employ? How does each tackle socioeconomic inequality? In what types of communities are they effective? And what prospects for banding together or learning from each other do they offer? In the previous session, we explored the nature and extent of the greening-displacement link in cities across the global North and South. In this second session, we focus on practical projects in New York and the Northeast.

Invited Speakers:

Dilip Da Cunha,  Adjunct Professor at the School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, is co-author ofMississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape, Deccan Traverses: the Making of Bangalore’s Terrain, and Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary. An architect and planner, he and Anuradha Mathur are co-editors of the forthcoming book Design in a Terrain of Water that follows the 2010/11 international symposiums at PennDesign that they conceived and directed. He is currently working on a project provisionally titled The Invention of Rivers. Da Cunha is also leading a team from PennDesign that is exploring design strategies for coastal resilience in the Lower Chesapeake / Norfolk area.

Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development (CCPD), is most recently the author of The New Century of the Metropolis: Urban Enclaves and Orientalism (2012) and New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate (2008). He has collaborated on many community-based plans and written about community land trusts. He is founder and co-editor of Progressive Planning Magazine, and Participating Editor for the journals Latin American Perspectives and Local Environment.

Sean Sweeney, Director and founder of the Global Labor Institute, a program of the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) based in New York City, worked with the ILR, Steelworkers, and other unions to organize the North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis, the first major conference on unions and climate change. He is a regular contributor to New Labor Forum and is the co-author of the UN Environment Program’s 2008 report, Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World. He is currently working on a global initiative to democratize national energy systems.

Peggy M. Shepard, is Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE-ACT For Environmental Justice. She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy and environmental health. She has advanced the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all. She serves on numerous academic and governmental advisory boards, and has co-authored research articles in Environmental Health Perspectives and theAmerican Journal of Public Health.

Following the speakers’ opening remarks and a brief round of responses, the audience will join in a discussion moderated by Daniel Aldana Cohen, a PhD candidate in Sociology at NYU who has written on urban climate politics and socio-environmental conflicts in North and South America, and whose dissertation research connects climate politics and social movement struggles in global cities.

The Democratizing the Green City event series is collaboration between IPK’s Cities, Cultures, and Climate Change working group and the Urban Democracy Lab at Gallatin.

Democratizing the Green City | Greening global cities: Luxury ecology and its discontents

New York’s fame as a capital of sustainable urbanism keeps growing.  How can we distinguish between genuine ecological enhancements and mere green marketing? To what extent have greening efforts in New York and other cities in the North and South served first and foremost as “luxury ecologies”, which improve the local environment at the cost of social displacement? What potential is there for urban greening to be anchored to social justice projects? And in the context of global city development strategies, how much can grassroots struggles for ecological services like essential water and sanitation infrastructure achieve? We seek to investigate these questions by exploring the link between ecological enhancement and social displacement across North and South, from Mumbai to New York, probing municipal policymakers’ and grassroots activists’ challenges and opportunities.

Invited Speakers:

Julian Brash, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Monclair State University, is the author of the acclaimed Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City (2011). His current research focuses on the High Line and other new public parks in New York City.

Nikhil Anand, Assistant Professor of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota, has written extensively in geography and anthropology on the political ecology of urban infrastructures and their social and material relations, with a focus on Mumbai.

Miriam Greenberg, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Urban Studies Research Cluster at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is the author of Branding New York: How a City in Crisis was Sold to the World (2009) and the forthcoming Crisis Cities: Disaster and Redevelopment in New York and New Orleans (with Kevin Fox Gotham). Her current research addresses the varying discourses and practices of “urban sustainability,” with a particular focus on California city-regions.

Following the speakers’ opening remarks and a brief round of responses, the audience will join in a discussion moderated by Hillary Angelo, a PhD candidate in Sociology at NYU who has written extensively on urban political ecology, and whose dissertation tracks a century of urban greening in Germany’s Ruhr region.

The Democratizing the Green City event series is collaboration between IPK’s Cities, Cultures, and Climate Change working group and the Urban Democracy Lab at Gallatin

Democratizing the Green City | Spring 2014 Discussion Series

This three-part discussion series and a book talk sought to deepen our understanding of the causes of—and potential solutions to—the displacement and social inequalities that often result from urban greening agendas.  The series featured emerging scholars Daniel Aldana Cohen and Hillary Angelo (NYU, Sociology) as moderators and scholars such as Miriam Greenberg (Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz), Tom Angotti (Urban Affairs and Planning, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY), Julian Brash (Anthropology, Montclair State University),  Joel Rogers (Center on Wisconsin Strategy, University of Wisconsin), Michael Goldman (Sociology, University of Minnesota), and Sapana Doshi (Geography and Development, University of Arizona).  It also included practitioners such as Peggy Robinson (Co-Founder and Executive Director, WE-ACT For Environmental Justice), McKenzie Funk (Co-Founder of Deca, a global journalism cooperative), and Ron Shiffman (Co-Founder, Pratt Institute for Community and Environmental Development).  Co-sponsored by the Institute for Public Knowledge and the Department of Metropolitan Studies

March 13, 2014: Greening global cities: Luxury ecology and its discontents

April 22, 2014: Green urbanism beyond greenwashing: Four strategies

May 8, 2014: The democratic green city: From above and below