Visualizing Tenant Activism: A Report from Our March 10 Event

nyc-apartmentsThe issues of tenants’ rights and affordable housing in New York City have become more visible in the past few years as rents have skyrocketed and long-term renters have been displaced. Chris Hendrick, an MFA candidate at Parsons, The New School for Design, and Claudia Prat, an M.A. candidate at the Studio 20 Journalism program at NYU, have taken that visibility to a new level. In the March 10th event Visualizing Tenant Activism Hendricks and Prat displayed interactive projects they each have developed to aid the fight for the preservation of affordable housing.

Chris Hendrick’s project took the scores of open data that the New York City government releases and made it user friendly. The end result is a website called Am I Rent Stabilized? The website allows the user to input his or her address and matches it against a database of buildings that should contain rent stabilized units. From there, it provides users with the information to get their rent histories and diagnose whether they have been overpaying rent. Chris has put his knowledge of data mining, coding, and cartography to use in other projects such as the North West Bushwick Community Map that tracks displacement, development, and gentrification in a section of Bushwick. His projects seek to be not only visually interesting, not only informative, but also action motivating.

Claudia Prat’s project is an interactive documentary that humanizes the tenants’ rights issue. It combines the history of tenants’ issues in New York City, backgrounds of neighborhoods that are facing gentrification, and profiles of tenants facing harassment. Together, the videos link together into an interconnected web. In contrast to a traditional documentary with a clear and concrete narrative structure, this is presented in a way that allows for a natural exploration of the topic.

— Melissa Bean