Urban Planning: Competing and Overlapping Forces of Development and Displacement


Throughout the world, the emergence of modernized cities has often come at the expense of the wellbeing of lifelong residents. Many people, typically from low-income and minority communities, have been driven out of their homes by means of gentrification, eminent domain, socio-cultural isolation, and other external forces. In his discussion of urban planning in New York for Sale, Tom Angotti disproves a series of misconceptions and instead puts forth a starkly different voice. He specifically draws attention to the overlap of community engagement, public policy, and the forces of the broader international arena when it comes to shaping an urban landscape. As Angotti says, “Community planning is rarely politically neutral at the local level and often addresses citywide, regional, and global political issues” (8). The interaction these seemingly independent agents complicates the conversation and raises the stakes of the potential outcome.

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Seven Principles For Building Better Cities


In light of the end of our discussions, I found this TedTalk to be relevant in how we should shape our cities, through a similar and universal method that includes seven principles. Peter Calthorpe, a San Fransisco architect and urban planner and designer, highlights these principles that will allow cities to improve over time. Through the use of Californian and Chinese cities for his case studies, he states that all cities should promote the principles:

1. Preserve natural environments and critical agriculture

2. Mix

3. Walk

4. Bike

5. Connect

6. Ride

7. Focus

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Yielding Planning to the Masses in Melrose

Angotti’s chapters “From Protest to Community Plan” and “Community Planning for the Few” discuss instances in which community members attempted to influence city planning, to various degrees of success. In both Cooper Square and Melrose Commons, activists efficiently mobilized to construct an alternative plan to challenge the area’s master blueprint. Angotti explains that local visionaries have had just as profound of an effect on the city as Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs: “Urban historians have largely overlooked stories of … working-class people throughout the city whose organizing and ideas have left an imprint on the city” (126-127). Zukin concludes The Naked City with a perspective on the search for “authentic” spaces and how this argument is used to shape the city’s landscape.

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Reflection- Common Event Seminar 4

As a second semester sophomore at the Macaulay Honors College here at BC, this is my fourth Macaulay Common Event. I can definitely say I felt the most prepared for this event and most comfortable with this presentation, even though it seemed to be the most “intense” one compared to the previous events. What really helped me (and my group) in terms of preparing for the presentation was practicing in front of an audience. Practicing the presentation in class and constantly editing it was a big help. Writing a script was very helpful as well. Although, we didn’t follow a script exactly, writing out and discussing what everyone was going to say using parallel language was very helpful. Feedback regarding presentation style was particularly helpful because I feel like that was our biggest weakness when we were starting of.

All of the presentations were very interesting. Particularly, I liked how many of the presentations had very specific targeted solutions down to what NYC department should make what changes. I also liked how although there was a similar theme in each room, there was variety in the presentations we heard. It was interesting to see how every topic on bettering the city was so interconnected. The coordinator in the room asked very good questions. They were difficult questions, but the kinds that really provoked thought and discussion, which I think this event was all about. The only criticism I have is that I wish that the coordinator would’ve spoke more about her experiences and  background and that there were more adults working in relevant fields present. I think this would facilitate even more discussion and would take the projects a step further.

If I had to give advice regarding the common event to future Seminar 4 students, I would say to tailor the presentation to bettering our city. Furthermore, to be excited about this presentation instead of dreading it. It’s really not an environment where students should be worried and tense. Instead, it’s more about being proud of a solution you’re proposing to a problem that is relevant and significant, but at the same time being open and dynamic because all of these problems are incredibly complicated and an easy cookie cutter solution doesn’t necessarily exist. In this advice also lies my key take away from the conference and the ultimate experience I had. This was truly a learning experience and a realization that NYC is a vigorous city. There are many great things about NYC, but it is also very problematic. NYC belongs to all of us and as the rising generation, the future of NYC is in our hands with both the good and the bad. Fixing the bad is evidently much more complicated than I imagined before learning all the pertinent information during this seminar. However, the challenge doesn’t scare me or drive me away; instead, it pushes me to be more creative, and I really think that there is a lot of hope in the future of our city (especially with all of the great ideas I heard during the conference).  Ultimately, I had a great experience and am proud of our project and everyone else’s. I am excited to see some of our potential solutions be implemented decades down the line. With that, I’d like to extend a great thank you to Alexis, Professor Alonso, my group-mates and the whole class!



ITF Post: The Rise and Fall of New York City?

Here’s a collection of links organized around the history of New York examined as a way to understand its present and future status. The links include essays, multimedia, book reviews, and maps for you to consider in relation to the material covered this semester. Seminar texts, discussions, and projects have led you to the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid. This course has focused on accruing new information, assimilating and applying that information through class requirements (participating in class discussion, researching a topic about New York City, writing eportfolio posts, creating and presenting work to a group), and through these processes, the information has turned to knowledge. How might you analyze or evaluate the sources linked below? What did info or skills did you develop that helps you understand these sources and link to the broader themes of our seminar?


Joan Didion, “Goodbye To All That” (1967)

Zadie Smith, “Find Your Beach,” New York Review of Books (October 23, 2014)

E.B. White, “This Is New York,” (1949)

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Why Is “Authenticity” Coveted?

The idea of “authenticity” reflected in both overall modern terms, and in the context of the city neighborhoods being gentrified, is one that is coveted by the people. People want to be seen as “authentic” and people want to be a part of a neighborhood known for its “authentic” culture. However, the reasoning behind the allure of this quality varies, and trying to understand this reason properly could help illuminate the reason why gentrifiers become enamored with certain areas in the city on the basis of “authenticity.” Richard Greenwald, a professor of history and sociology and the dean of St. Joseph’s College, wrote an article called “Why Is ‘Authenticity’ So Central to Urban Culture?” in which he spoke about the current process of hyper-gentrification and how it led to a new, more uniform city “renewed” by the corporate world. Zukin further supported this idea: “…the city as we knew it was gone. It became a corporate city of transnational headquarters, big-box stores, and Business Improvement Districts…” (222). With this new establishment of big business changing the outlook of the city, the issue of “authenticity” becomes more and more important as places championed for their rich culture began to lose it as many gentrifiers guided their choices of where they want to live in the city based on that idea.

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Rezoning the Olympic Bid for Sustainability

While the Olympics certainly sets a stage upon which its host city can rise, Tom Angotti makes it clear in his book, New York for Sale, that this preparation of Olympic land closely aligns with the local real estate agenda as well. In 2012, when New York set up its bid for the Summer Olympics, public participation was largely ignored in favor of mass rezoning. These rezoning policies would geographically carve an “X” into the New York landscape in homage to the ancient crossroads and promise of globalization. Yet, despite this message of unification, many of the residing immigrants were excluded from the picture, and would not even be able to afford a ticket to the games. Furthermore, the change in landscape would revive developments in Hunters Point, Queens, as well as increased traffic to Chelsea Piers—all actions which would increase income in the real estate coalition (Angotti 212, 213).   

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The Benefits of Community Planning Committees

Tom Angotti discusses community planning committees in New York for Sale. He discussed the Cooper Square Alternate Plan which was the first community plan in New York City that worked to build and preserve low-income housing and after four decades became the model alternative to the private real-estate market. The Cooper Square plan influenced other community plans such as the Melrose Commons Plan that worked to preserve low-income housing in the South Bronx and hindered the top-down city-sponsored urban renewal plans.

The first Cooper Square plan was drafted in 1961 in regards to urban renewal in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In order to prevent the displacement of low-income minorities, primarily Latinos, in the neighborhood, community organizers sparked the trend of community planning by gaining the support of elected officials, revised plans several times and withstood scrutiny from conservatives. Continue reading “The Benefits of Community Planning Committees”

ITF Post: The Tribeca Dog Run and determining “public good” and “private interests”

In his documentary “National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (2009) , Ken Burns chronicles the development of national parks in the United States since 1851, connecting the development of the parks system with the development of democratic processes in the United States. From the very beginning of the national parks system, Burns examines the parks’ as physical spaces of democracy, spaces available to the public at large rather than a select few.  New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation emphasizes this approach at their website:

Our vision is to create and sustain thriving parks and public spaces for New Yorkers.

Our mission is to plan resilient and sustainable parks, public spaces, and recreational amenities, build a park system for present and future generations, and care for parks and public spaces.1

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Denver District Developments: The Ideal Relation of Community Planning and City Development

“There is no social change fairy. There is only change made by the hands of individuals” is a quote by Winona LaDuke which highlights the themes of today’s readings (Angotti 113). The readings talked about the Cooper Square and Melrose common plans and how both were two important milestones in community plan and change for community voice in development planning in the city. Both cases represent how persistence and fighting for community representation and purpose can lead to compromise and lead to a voice for the community in city planning. Instead of developers being able to impose their own vision upon neighborhoods and relocate thousands of people with unaffordable housing plans and buildings, the community came together and projected their voice forcing development plans that had minimum percentages of affordable housing built and contingencies that prevented mass relocation of people already living in their respective communities. While the battles between city developers and community planning has led to the compromise of new development projects with community input in NYC a special case in Denver, Colorado shows how community planning in conjunction with city agendas listening to the needs of the people can create a diverse, multi-cultural, and affordable neighborhood.

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