What is the Model City?

Panoramic view of red buildings in Harlem, New York
Union Avenue
Brooklyn, NY , USA
Thursday, March 15, 7:30pm9:30pm

What was the Model Cities program and why have so few people heard about it? Join architect and historian Susanne Schindler as she explains the origins, trajectory and legacies of the Great Society program launched in 1966. Model Cities’ goal was to improve the quality of life in the nation’s most impoverished urban areas by coordinating federal funding and community participation. Despite the best intentions, however, the program’s implementation was rocky. By 1970 it was considered a problem, and in 1974 it was terminated. New York City had three Model Cities Neighborhoods—Central Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Harlem–East Harlem—areas that today are once again highly contested in light of municipal planning policies. The program will include a screening of Gordon Hyatt’s never-before-shown film, Between The Word And The Deed, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker as well as Rebecca Amato from NYU’s Urban Democracy Lab.

Between The Word And The Deed
(Gordon Hyatt, 60 mins, 1971)

The documentary was commissioned in 1968 by the City of New York’s Model Cities Administration and was designed to investigate the experience of community and advocacy planning in New York City’s three Model Cities Area. Filming took place over a two-year period and involved five camera people, but the final product was never shown.

Gordon Hyatt is an American writer and television producer. He has written and produced numerous documentaries for CBS, WNET, PBS, and TLC. Many of Hyatt’s documentaries focus on the culture, history, and future of New York City, including architecture, the modern art scene, and residential trends. His awards include a New York Emmy Award and a CINE Golden Eagle Award. Hyatt has also served as the secretary of the Municipal Art Society, was appointed to the Art Commission of the City of New York by mayor Ed Koch, and worked as the project director for the 150th Anniversary of the publication of Moby-Dick.

Susanne Schindler is an architect and writer focused on the intersection of policy and design in housing. From 2013 to 2016, she was lead researcher and co-curator of House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate at Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, and co-author of The Art of Inequality: Architecture, Housing, and Real Estate—A Provisional Report. Susanne has taught design at Parsons and Columbia, and is currently pursuing a PhD at ETH Zurich.

Rebecca Amato is a historian whose work focuses on the intersections between cities, space/place, and memory. She holds a PhD in United States History from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and is adapting her dissertation research into a manuscript that examines the layered relationships between heritage preservation and neighborhood change. She has been a staff member and consultant at a variety of history institutions in New York, including the Brooklyn Historical Society, the American Social History Project, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Her writing has appeared in Radical History Review, City Courant, Cineaste, and New York magazine. She is the Associate Director of Gallatin’s Urban Democracy Lab, which provides a space for scholars and practitioners to collaborate and exchange ideas for cultivating just, sustainable, and creative urban futures.