Housing New York – Community Planning

Both Sharon Zukin and Tom Angotti conclude their books talking about a common approach to city planning; community based planning. Over the course of the NYC history of city planning, we have seen a more developer centralized approach, meaning that the city’s decision to zoning and building were heavily influenced by private developers. Such an example is the history of Robert Moses. Decisions of where and what to build in the city we’re not consulted with the residents of the neighborhood being affected. This practice, however begins to change, most noticeably by the help of Jane Jacobs and her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Years of conflict between the city, developers and the residents have led to community based planning. This approach includes the opinion of communities when it comes to rebuilding of the city in order to build a more diverse and accepting neighborhood. Zukin ends her book The Naked City with a powerful sentence that describes community planning as a way that “would strike a balance between a city’s origins and its new beginnings; this would restore a city’s soul” (246).

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Displacement of Manufactories

When thinking of gentrification, we tend to think of the consequences it has on the residents of a particular neighborhood, but we forget about the businesses equally affected by it, specifically manufacturing businesses. Just like people, large manufacturing businesses get displaced too as discussed by Winferd Curren in her article “‘From the Frying Pan to the Oven’: Gentrification and the Experience of Industrial Displacement in Williamsburg, Brooklyn”. Williamsburg, a once industrial neighborhood, is now being gentrified into a residential neighborhood, leaving manufacturers to be displaced. The issue at hand is that is this transition from industrial to residential harmful for the economy of the neighborhood, or even the city. Curren states that the displacement of manufacturers is “endangering the diversity of the economy and the employment outcomes of unskilled and immigrant workers” (1427). Such effect would not only increase the unemployment rate, but it will also “intensify mounting social ills such as poverty, racism, poor health care and inadequate education, which are still in the process of healing” as stated on Brooklyn Public Library’s history of Williamsburg.

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Gentrification and landlord harassment

Upon reading Stabrowski, Newman and Wily, and Vigdor’s articles on displacement by gentrification, one thing becomes clear, that gentrification has a negative effect on low-income people, by either displacing them out of their own neighborhoods or if not displaced, they are left to live in poor conditions in a neighborhood they cannot afford. This causes a feeling of discomfort, isolation and not-belonging, which is clearly seen in Stabrowski’s “New-Build Gentrification and the Everyday Displacement of Polish Immigrant Tenants in Greenpoint, Brooklyn”. Although some manage to stay put in a gentrified neighborhood, their neighborhood becomes unfamiliar due to the newly built high-end stores and shops that they cannot afford. With gentrification comes a new wave of people that can afford higher rents.  This then builds the greed of landlords to oust their tenants from rent-stabilizing housing to make room for the newcomers that would pay more for the same apartment.

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In “The Naked City: Union Square and The Paradox of Public Space”, Sharon Zukin describes the transformation that Union Square underwent. The park opened in 1830, and had a wealthy neighborhood with upper class families living in. When the upper class moved out, it became a land of cheap shopping and low rents with immigrants and working class people moving in. However in the 1970s the park became a very dangerous place due to the illegal drugs trades going on. In the 1980s, the Union Square Partnership was the first Business Improvement District (BID) to be formed in New York State. Its purpose was to keep public spaces such as shopping streets and parks clean and safe.  This organization then led to upper class and chain stores to move into the neighborhood.

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Public Characters

Upon reading Jane Jacobs’ book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, I was struck by the idea of self-appointed public characters and their importance in enhancing the “social structure of sidewalk life” (68). As Jacobs describes, public characters are usually storekeepers that are in frequent contact with various people and serve the purpose of circulating news about the neighborhood. If not storekeepers, then all other public characters depend on these small local businesses to gather news about the neighborhood. They do not need to have any specialties, they just need to be, as Jacobs puts it, present and public.

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