NYC: A City for Everyone

Who does New York City belong to?

New York City has always been viewed as a place of opportunity. It was this belief that attracted people from all around the world to pick up everything they had for a chance to have a better life. In current times, however, this belief has been exploited by the wealthy elites. They see New York City as an opportunity to display and grow their wealth, but don’t see, or at least don’t care, about the effects this has on everyone else. They want to the city to be a place for them, stripping New York City of the one belief that has made it the powerful melting pot it is. They care about the growth of economic value, but what about the growth of human value? Once an area of mostly undeveloped land and farms, the belief that New York City would provide opportunity allowed it to grow, so how can we believe we can continue to grow once that belief is gone?

In this Ted Talk by OluTimehin Adegbeye, she discusses a similar issue in Lagos, where she is from. She says Lagos is a place of possibility and  “very often, the difference between possibility and impossibility is simply who you are.” But then she explains how the city was built by people who believed it can welcome anyone, but now those people are the once being forced out. The story of Lagos is not that different than the story of New York City, a city built by people who believed in opportunity, but are now having their opportunities taken away. At the end of her talk, Adegbeye says, “We are all already here, and that answers the question of whether or not we belong.”

How can we make New York City a place for everyone?

Community involvement in neighborhood planning processes is crucial to an inclusive city. Continuing to rely on the elites to make decisions  continues the process of New York City being a city that caters to the elite, and many cases in NYC’s history show the importance of community involvement. After 9/11, many of the people affected by health issues or job losses were low-income and immigrants, but the city wanted to redevelop lower manhattan into the economic center it once was (Angotti 199, 185). This created opportunities for the rich, but provided no support for the people who were most affected by this tragedy. When community involvement is utilized, however, people who have lived in the city, and belong in the city just as much as any rich people, were able to have their needs met because they are able to make decisions on what is best for their community. When Robert Moses wanted to displace thousands of people and hundreds of businesses in the Lower East Side, the Cooper Square Committee fought back and were able to bring 146 low-income, rent-subsidized units to their neighborhood (Angotti 115-119).

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