Public Park Space- Who is it for?

On the NYC Parks site we were privileged to view before-and–after photos of the parks in all boroughs. The after photos seem so much more colorful, bright and vibrant to show the ‘hard work’ and ‘careful’ attention the city gave to the ‘poor, unfortunate town’. It says that since Fall 2014 The Community Park Initiative had the goal of repainting, repairing, and beautifying the parks and courts of the city in the most “underserved neighborhoods”. It was mentioned in class however how the city rarely give substantial assistance to these areas and prefers to plant some trees to say they helped. Indeed, the new monkey bars and colorful slide look amazing for the kids but how is their education system? Are there enough teachers or funding for the district? Often times these projects are only ways for the city to show their effort and intervention and to add to their resume, rather than resolve real issues or the concerns of the citizens. To tie back to what Jacobs found up in North Boston, a resident of a public housing complex said, “They put a patch of grass to say that we have green but they never asked us what we really wanted in the neighborhood?”. Then there is also the question of, is the city really doing this for its residents or to make it beautiful for its visitors?
It seems to be a trend for New York City to prioritize its tourists over its residents. I can understand wanting to improve the look of course but when the focus is income brought in from visitors and the appearance instead of function or use, then it is an issue. The City has failed to fix what doesn’t work but believes a paint job would at least cover the blemishes. If its not for the tourists, it for the wealthy. Kevin Loughran recognized that in neoliberal urbanism, the spread of resources is imbalanced favoring “privatized public spaces in wealthier neighborhoods to neglected parks in poorer neighborhoods”. I know we were told to be weary of the ‘greater good’ idea but there is no way they can argue that the projects in the city are catering to that (imaginary) group. In there eyes the ‘greater good’ must be the huge number of thousands if not millions of visitors they get at a time. Areas like the High Line were designed as a tourist attraction solely for the enjoyment by those not native to NYC. The Friends of the High Line gives their mission statement, “Through excellence in operations, stewardship, innovative programming, and world-class design, we seek to engage the vibrant and diverse community on and around the High Line, and to raise the essential private funding to help complete the High Line’s construction and create an endowment for its future operations.” It actually quite comical that they use the term “diverse” when it seems that that’s the main thing they don’t allow (along with a very long list of other things). Everything is restricted from the food, to activities that would be deemed normal for a park, and even lounging is barely an option. The High Line was designed as a conveyer belt, just to move the subjects along a narrow path to look side to side as art or grass then keep walking. I remember my experience first time going to the high line with a friend, we went to the sugar factory before and I got the most expensive drink and plate of a single waffle that I ever had in my life. And after that day I realized how crazy I was to spend thirty dollars on one (but massive) drink, which I clearly won’t do again. It was March so it was also cold that day and I remember seeing a few performers but not like the ones that you see in the subway station that I visualize when I think of NYC. But yeah I remember only really being able to take pictures and walk this path. It was pretty boring in my opinion since the park gives no opportunity to interact with it. When I think of a real park, there are families having barbeques or picnics, children are playing in a playground or swings, there’s maybe a basketball courts for teens to play, fields to play tag in or a water sprinkler park. On the High Line I saw no families and no children, it was mostly white, middle-aged couples there. I highly doubt it was just the day I went and that this form of ‘entertainment’ clearly caters to a specific group.
Compare the High Line to what we said in class about Central Park and how its underlying purpose of assimilating people into society and controlling their behavior. “No ball-playing”, “no access to the grass”, no bikes”, and more were all used to give the rights and pleasures of the park to a specific class- the wealthy or visitors. The same is being applied here. If a kid wanted to play ball or a teen wanted to walk their dog, that is not possible on the High Line. Doesn’t seem so ‘diverse’ now. I can’t help but think and compare this park to the boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Still a part of NYC, it caters to all groups and kinds. There’s the NY Aquarium with affordable rates of free for children and $12 for adults (but have reduced pricing now due to the ongoing construction), Nathans’ famous hot dogs, the beach and Luna Park with rides of all types. The boardwalk is also just so much for open and accommodating so you’re always hearing loud music, seeing couples or families walking and kids on their skateboards or mom playing with kids in the sand. Its all about if a park or area is serving its needs to the community. The New York City government was established to serve New Yorkers.

“About the High Line | Friends of the High Line.” The High Line,

“The High Line.” The High Line : NYC Parks,

“Saving Wildlife and Wild Places.” New York Aquarium,

Loughran, Kevin. “Parks for Profit: The High Line, Growth Machines, and the Uneven Development of Urban Public Spaces.” City and Community, Northwestern University, Mar. 2014.

“Community Parks Initiative Targeted Improvements.” Community Parks Initiative Targeted Improvements : NYC Parks, NYC Parks,

Environmental Injustice

Before Hurricane Katrina, the majority of the New Orleans population included renters.  In the wake of the hurricane, a disproportionate amount of rental housing was destroyed, particularly in the affordable and public sectors.  However, the majority of the funding for reconstruction was allocated to homeowners and initiatives to increase homeownership.  The then president Bush stated that “homeownership is one of the great strengths of any community, and it must be a central part of our vision for the revival of this region” (Herring 2016).  Thus, the vast majority of funding went towards homeowners, who ended up receiving billions of dollars in government emergency aid.  The majority of New Orleans citizens before the storm—renters—not only did not receive this kind of aid, but they also faced double rents, assignment to trailer parks, and even displacement to other cities.

Moreover, before Hurricane Katrina, more than 5000 people, who were mostly African Americans, lived in public housing. However, during the hurricane, 46% of the public housing stock was destroyed.  After the hurricane, the demolition of the rest of the city’s projects were approved by the New Orleans City Council.  Even by 2013, new public housing units numbered 2,114 to replace the 6,171 public housing units that were found before Katrina.

Due to all this, there exists a greater gap between the rich and the poor in New Orleans now.  The poverty rate and homelessness has increased; the African American population has decreased.  Residential areas that used to be affordable have been gentrified, benefiting the investors and property owners, all the while decreasing the amount of affordable rental housing available.

The inequities before and during a disaster are often played out further in the period after a disaster. Many minorities and the poor have had greater difficulties recovering from disasters due to less insurance, lower incomes, fewer savings, more unemployment, less access to communication channels and information, and the intensification of existing poverty.  Katrina was not an isolated incident; it is part of the socioeconomic political condition known as environmental injustice, where people of color and the lower class are exposed to greater environmental risks while receiving fewer environmental services.


Greenberg, M (2014). The Disaster Inside the Disaster: Hurricane Sandy and Post-crisis Redevelopment. New Labor Forum. Vol 23(1) 44–52.

Herring, C and Rosenman, E (2016) Engels in the crescent city: revisiting the housing question in post-Katrina New Orleans. ACME 15(3):617-623

Climate Change & Environmental (in)justice

In “The Flood Next Time”, Murphy introduces the idea of a “flexible adaptation pathway”.  Although, this idea seems logical it simply exemplifies this common attitude of investing in the solution opposed to investing in prevention.  We have seen this as a prominent structural issue that continues to be overlooked.

A common example is that of hurricane Katrina.  This hurricane is considered to have been massively devastating.  However, in reality its impact could have been lessened had the infrastructure like the levees in the poor neighborhoods, been fixed.  This particular event created the question if whether natural disasters are truly “natural”.  Of course hurricanes are arguable a natural occurrence giving that they are a result of nature but the impact and disaster they cause is not natural.  If the infrastructure and preventive measures are in place natural disasters like these can be avoided.  More often than not the infrastructure in low-income neighborhoods is very poor and underinvested.  That is why very often low income individuals are more detrimentally impacted by “natural disasters”.

Neil Smith’s “There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster” explores this idea of vulnerability.  Who remains more vulnerable during natural disasters?  As I said before low-income individuals often minorities are more vulnerable.  This is not coincidental but very much systematic.  In our corporate city we surround ourselves around the market and profit.  If something doesn’t produce revenue or profit it is not a priority to be invested in.  That is why as explained in “The Disaster Inside the Disaster” certain areas like lower Manhattan experience reinvestment and rapid rebuilding while others are left to perish.  This dichotomy shows the environmental injustice present in the city.

The environmental injustice in the city is present in many ways.  It’s present in the form of disaster capitalism which entails taking advantage of a disaster to create a stronger market and devalue the public.  With this mindset privatization essentially strengthens and government support weakens.  Similarly, when a low-income area is reinvested it is in order to promote gentrification.  This introduces another issue known as environmental gentrification.  With environmental gentrification low-income individuals are essentially deprived of healthy neighborhoods filled with parks and green land.  The moment a low income neighborhood begins to redevelop our capitalist system causes property values to increase and the area becomes more desirable and displaces the long term low income residents.  This repetitive cycle creates the idea that sustainable environments are only meant for those who can afford it.  Green land and toxic free residential areas are not meant for low income people.

Low income people are victims to the structural corporate system which relies heavily on private development and a decrease in government investment.  Environmental injustice shows that the city’s corporate mindset leaves low income people to fight an ‘unwinnable’ battle against the structural system even on things that seem like basic necessities like strong infrastructure and clean air.


Additional Resources:

Checker M. (2011) Wiped Out by the “Greenwave”:
Environmental Gentrification and the Paradoxical Politics of Urban Sustainability City & Society, Vol. 23, Issue 2, pp. 210–229

Klein N (2007) DISASTER CAPITALISM The new economy of catastrophe

Smith N. (2006) There’s No Such Thing As a Natural Disaster

Housing and Affordability

“How East Harlem wrote its own development plan,” by Perry Abello Oscar discusses the public housing units available to the East Harlem community, which allude to the wealthier parts of Manhattan by being named after the more affluent streets. One of the most important factors though is to note the paradox between the names of the homes, and the conditions of those living them. While the names of the public houses may suggest a wealthier clientele, the fact is that those who need to live in the homes struggle with the affordability of the housing.

One of the many low income advocacy groups which Oscar mentions, aims to tackle the problem of unaffordable housing by creating somewhat of a game for the public to interact with hands on and learn more about the zoning of their community. By creating different groups which view the problems of the housing and community differently, many suggestions are able to be made that could have possible implementations for the neighborhood’s future. The game created by the CUP advocacy group was made to tackle Mayor de Blasio’s plan for upzoning the communities in East Harlem, in order to increase the affordability of the area.

In “City taking bids for 400 unit East Harlem affordable complex,” Melissa Viverito claims that the city is soliciting bids to build up to 400 units along East 111th street, that will be completely affordable to households with annual incomes of $24,000. The upzoning that the Mayor would like to take place would increase a great amount of space for the citizens in need of public housing.

While upzoning is a decent way to create more housing units for a more affordable price, there are many drawbacks that it can have aesthetically and energetically for a neighborhood. These are important to keep in mind because although creating tall buildings may solve one problem, it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons of the situation in order to determine whether the result will be worth the cost. Additionally, it seems unfair that lower income communities are the one’s subject to deal with these other issues, just so that they can have affordable housing. The same solutions are not used in more upscale communities in which the citizens are able to advocate for themselves, and it is important to note this socioeconomic inequality.

Works Cited:

Melissa Viverito (2016). City taking bids for 400-unit East Harlem Affordable Complex. (last accessed 7 May 2017)

Oscar Perry Abello (2016). How East Harlem Wrote Its Own Development Plan. (last accessed 7 May 2017)



The Inequality of Natural Disasters

In this world of inequity and inequality, one thing that you would think everyone is affected by equally is nature, right?

Wrong. The more vulnerable and underprivileged you are, the more damage you endure. And to top it all off, those sites that get hit the hardest (and thus, need the most aid) aren’t the ones who receive the money or resources.

Miriam Greenberg in “The Disaster Inside the Disaster” makes it very clear that recovery efforts following natural disasters, especially in urban areas, have not been very successful. This is largely due to the fact that aid and resource distribution after the disaster hits is not done in an effective and proportionate manner. Time and time again, we see that “low-income, disproportionately non-white communities, workers, and small businesses, the primary victims of disaster, were further disadvantaged in receiving aid, while wealthy, disproportionately white neighborhoods and high-end industries were privileged” (Greenberg 46). As Greenberg mentions, the recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and 9/11 in New York City share many similar qualities including the very important fact that, in both cases, billions of dollars were used to fund real estate developments, corporations, and wealthy neighborhoods. These areas were increasing in wealth and population while gentrifying low-income neighborhoods and displacing residents who had already lost everything.

William Donner and Havidán Rodríguez in “Disaster Risk and Vulnerability: The Role and Impact of Population and Society” state that vulnerability in this specific context refers to “the characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influences their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of a natural hazard.” Here, Donner and Rodríguez make a similar claim to that of Greenberg. Essentially, different types of people with different resources and socioeconomic statuses go through different levels of suffering before, during, and after a natural disaster occurs. Instead of providing aid to the people who need it most, it is given to the people and neighborhoods that will bring (and have brought in) the most money.

Which brings in the idea of “environmental gentrification” proposed by Melissa Checker in “Green is the New Brown.” The idea is that green initiatives–like closing down power plants and creating more parks and farmer’s markets–are put in place to make the low-income neighborhood more appealing to the wealthy and make it appear more livable (Checker 159). I don’t know about you but if that doesn’t raise some red flags then frankly I’m not sure what will.

The problem isn’t just with not receiving aid after the disaster but begins even from prevention. One issue that Donner and Rodríguez raise is the language barrier of a large portion of the underprivileged. Because weather warnings and other cautionary instructions are provided in English (if provided at all), those who are unfamiliar with the language can easily misinterpret the warning and not be able to help themselves. Whether it’s on prevention or recovery, there needs to be a serious conversation and a more meaningful effort on discussing this issue. Why is it that the same people are constantly beaten down and the same people are always winning?



Donner W, Rodríguez H (2011) “disaster risk and vulnerability: the role and impact of population and society. (last accessed 7 May 2017)

“The Disaster Inside the Disaster,” Greenberg, Miriam. 2014. New Labor Forum, 23 (1): 44-52

“Green is the New Brown: ‘Old School Toxics’ and Environmental Gentrification on a New York City Waterfront,” Checker, Melissa. 2014. In Sustainability in the Global City: Myth and Practice, pp. 157-179

Disaster Redevelopment and Unfair Policies

In her work, The Disaster Inside the Disaster: Hurricane Sandy and Post-crisis Redevelopment, Miriam Greenberg writes about how funds allocated for reconstruction after disasters often end up in the hands of those who needed it the least. In her work, Greenberg primarily focuses on reconstruction post 911and Katrina, and argues that the distribution of funds for rebuilding was inequitable, and that these approaches greatly affected poor minority groups. A majority of the funds available for reconstruction after these disasters were used to fortify rich and predominantly white neighborhoods, while also aiding in the redevelopment of lower Manhattan’s financial district, and in the construction of luxurious waterfront towers. As the author writes this type of crisis driven urbanization in which “agencies were deregulated to eliminate “public benefit,” “low-income,” and “accountability” requirements” (Greenberg 2014, p. 46) were not only limited to 911 and Katrina, but also served to setup a precedent for future disaster rebuilding. The effects of such approaches to “disaster” redevelopment occurred after Hurricane Sandy, when different sections of Manhattan were severely affected by the storm. Those areas who received funding from previous rebuilding efforts were now better equipped and more affluent than before, ultimately leading to a faster reconstruction than other areas. According to Greenberg “The “new” Lower Manhattan—wealthier, more heavily insured, with superior infrastructure, and more politically connected than ever—was able to withstand the storm’s initial impact better than most, and then repair and rebuild in what seemed like lightning speed” (Greenberg 2014, p. 49). Resident’s in this wealthier section were given better and faster services, like electricity, heat and hot water after the storm. The other, not so wealthy parts of the city were instead given inadequate services and their recovery took longer than that of other equally affected (wealthier) areas.
Connected to Greenberg’s work, Melissa Checker’s Green is the New Brown: “Old School Toxics” and Environmental Gentrification on a New York City Waterfront, is about waterfront redevelopment and how this affects local residents. As part of her argument Checker primarily focuses on Staten Island’s North Shore where redevelopment plans post Hurricane Sandy focused primarily in repurposing its industrial waterfronts to attract the wealthy, instead of solving the local citizen’s problems. Among the problems that the local citizens had was reconstruction after the storm but, also other basic needs such as the elimination of exposure to toxic chemicals, which were a real concern in the area. The citizen’s concerns for their environment as well as for their own health led them to advocate for cleanup. However, these good intensions have backfired to create what Checker calls environmental gentrification, which she defines as the “relationship between the upscaling of low-income neighborhoods and the amelioration of environmental burdens (i.e., closing a power plant, bus depot, or waste transfer station) and/or green initiatives that appeal to elite ideas about “livability”’ (Checker p. 159). Although, cleanup of the area is on its way, not all parts of the island will be cleaned up. Instead of cleaning up all the affected areas from dangerous chemicals, the city has opted for a “better” approach: to clean up the area as they develop. Moreover, as part of PlaNYC 2030, the city decided to fund its own cleanup, declaring areas where redevelopment was to occur as brownfield areas, and then providing tax credits to investors who will clean up the area. As a result of such an approach “the majority of Brown- field tax credits issued in New York State went to wealthy developers and landowners” (Checker p. 168), once more showing how the wealthy and affluent benefit from funds which could have helped those in real need.

Jarret Murphy’s “The Flood Next Time” is also about development and how this can be affected by climate change. In his work Murphy states that sea levels are expected to rise about 6 feet by 2100, covering many areas close to the shore. Rising sea levels represent an imminent danger to neighborhoods located near the water which is why Murphy suggests that it is to the city’s best interest to begin to pull back from the waterfronts. Murphy states that building near the waterfront should no longer continue and retreat should begin instead. This form of managed retreat, as suggested by Murphy, is something for city officials to keep in mind as our climate keeps changing, and stronger storms can form. However, not everyone is willing to give up the waterfront just yet, as former Mayor Bloomberg stated “we cannot and will not abandon our waterfront. It’s one of our greatest assets. We must protect it, not retreat from it” (Murphy 2015, p. 14). In order to best prepare for future storms the city is investing $20 billion to protect its waterfronts, however, Murphy asks “will it be enough?” The reality is that the city cannot really know what exactly to expect for 2100 and would most likely not know how to prepare for something that at this point seems so distant. However, the author warns we must not be too confident because nature is unpredictable.

Lastly, to tie in all these ideas I have found an article written by Nguyen et. al. titled Green Economic Policies Will Improve the Environment and Promote Equality.  This article suggests that the creation of a green economy will create a shift away from gray-capitalism and into a much greener and more equitable economy. The authors argue that cities can combat environmental issues such as high levels of carbon emission by training people to hold green-collar jobs in the communities which they reside. An approach such as this one will generate more jobs for communities which have high levels of unemployment while simultaneously improving the quality of life and the environment for those neighborhoods. However, the authors also see that the improvement of neighborhoods can also lead to unintended consequences such as gentrification which is why they argue that “Green economics needs to be eventually policy-driven. If not, the greening of towns and cities will definitely set in motion the wheels of gentrification” (as cited in Nguyen et. al). However, greener capitalism is not all that we need to combat such unfair redistribution of funds.  In my opinion, in order to combat unfairness in the way which we deal with redevelopment and with climate change, we need to ensure that funds allocated to help those in real need get it right away. This is not to say that we should not help those other affluent communities at all but, we should insure that we are looking over the wellbeing of everyone, and not just the wellbeing of a specific group.


Checker, M (2014). Green is the New Brown: “Old School Toxics” and Environmental Gentrification on a New York City Waterfront. City University of New York.

Greenberg, M (2014). The Disaster Inside the Disaster: Hurricane Sandy and Post-crisis Redevelopment. New Labor Forum. Vol 23(1) 44–52.

Murphy J (2015). The Flood Next Time. The Nation

Shekar, P. M., & Nguyen, T. (2009). Green Economic Policies Will Improve the Environment and Promote Equality. In L. I. Gerdes (Ed.), Opposing Viewpoints. The Environment. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. (Reprinted from ColorLines, 2008, 18) Retrieved from


Everyone Needs a Home.

A home is one of the most important necessities in life. However, not everyone has a shelter where they can live due to affordability. Housing is not simply a local issue; it is an issue in many different cities. It is impossible for this problem to be resolved completely as many factors in society play a role, but we can strive for better and more housing opportunities for those in need.

The effort in striving for housing equality involves more than real estate agents, property owners, and tenants. As depicted in the “Affordable Housing’s Forever Solution” article from Next City, community land trust is a favorable method for revitalizing neighborhoods and increasing affordable housing or renting units. To my surprise, most community land trusts are not like companies or organizations that do things for some selfish benefits in return. They truthfully want to save neighborhoods by ensuring homes to families at a price below market value, especially in areas where gentrification is occurring. Community land trusts require money, resources, and people in order to succeed and properly function. In addition, they also need to purchase land at low-costs in order to rebuild it based on the needs of the neighborhood residents. I agree that neighborhoods should not simply have residential areas and housing. In fact, a successful community has a mixture of commercial and open space as well. Having access to basic amenities and beautiful green space is part of a healthy life.

A similar method that involves the power of neighborhood residents to change and help decide on plans to meet the communities’ needs is discussed in the article “How East Harlem Wrote Its Own Development Plan” from Next City. Just like how the issue of housing can not be settled completely, there is not one successful plan that settles the housing issue. In New York City, ULURP is a process where applications that affect land use are publicly reviewed by the Department of City Planning, City Planning Commission, borough president, and City Council. The process involves the input and planning decisions from the community. Through the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, I realized that the best way for strive for a more equitability in housing, even if it meant only increasing affordable housing by a small amount, is to meet halfway with those who constantly want to gentrify neighborhoods. As a result, there is a need to upzone, or make buildings taller, in order for there to be more low-income housing units.

Matthew Gordon Lasner makes an interesting claim in “Affordable Housing in New York City: Then and Now.” He believes that by incorporating four main strategies into a city, the housing problem can be solved. These four aspects are regulating housing conditions, enforcing rent laws, eliminating profit ownership, and having government subsidies. I am not sure what exactly can decrease the percentage of income people spend on housing or provide everyone with a home, but I believe that the housing issue can not be solved by any one of the aspects presented in any of the articles on its own. By working together, maybe one day everyone will have a place they can call “home.”

Additional Sources:

Lasner M (2015) Affordable Housing in New York City: Then and Now. Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.

Does MIH (Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) Work?

According to NYC Housing, “New York City’s shortage of affordable housing has reached a crisis point.” The problem of affordable housing has different causes, including increase in New Yorkers’ purchasing rate in the housing marketplace. Salaries of city’s renters have not changed much in the past 20 years, but “the average monthly rent for an apartment in New York City increased by almost 40 percent.” (NYC Housing) In addition, the mismatch between supply and demand also lead to the problem of shortage in affordable housing. The 2011 U.S. Census states that there are 979,142 households that are either low-income or extremely low-income, but there are only about 424,949 affordable units available to rent. Therefore, affordable housing is a top priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. In 2014, he released his plan to create 200,000 units of affordable housing by introducing two policies, mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) and zoning for quality and affordability (ZQA).

In class, we had discussed one of solutions to increase the amount of affordable housing, which is to encourage developers to build bigger buildings and include a specific percentage of apartments with cheap rent. This seems like a good policy and would attract developers who want to build giant buildings. However, is it really beneficial to people who are looking for affordable housing? Since only 20% of apartments in a building are affordable and the rest are expensive, the stores around the building would tend to sell products that are affordable for people with high incomes. The rent of the place determines the prices of products sell in the store and the monthly rent of the store. No one is willing to pay for a high rent and selling five apples for two dollars. Business owners need to sell the goods at prices that can support their monthly rent, the wages of employees and themselves. So, are government also going to provide services in the neighborhood, for 20% of the population, by opening stores for these families? Although MIH provides affordable housings in the city to low-income families, these families are not getting the sense of community in the neighborhood they are living in.

Another problem of MIH policy is many developers chose not to participate in the inclusionary zoning program, because “implicit subsidy for the affordable units is so high.” “As a result, inclusionary zoning generated fewer than 3,000 new affordable units from 2005 to mid-2013, according to an analysis from Brad Lander, a New York City councilman.” (Barro, 2014) The statistic shows the ineffectiveness of the inclusionary zoning program and makes me think implementing this program might not be beneficial people. First of all, the hidden cost of sustaining cheaper units discourages developers from participating in the program. Secondly, residents living in affordable housing units would have a hard time finding a sense of community in the area they live in, because stores in the neighborhood are possibly all targeting the rich customers. Finally, low-income communities are the targets of upzoning programs and since often of time residents are not included in the decision-making process, more people will be displaced rather than getting helped.

Nathan Newman, a housing activist, suggested that instead of including affordable units in the large building, government should sell density to developers for cash. The government can then use the money to improve low-income communities by constructing buildings with affordable housing and allow the residents in the community to decide what to do in order to best benefit the community and its people.

Work Cited:

Barro Josh (2014). Affordable Housing That’s Very Costly. accessed 5 May 2017)

NYC Housing. Our Current Affordable Housing Crisis – Affordable Housing For Every New Yorker. (last accessed 5 May 2017)

Oscar Perry Abello (2016). How East Harlem Wrote Its Own Development Plan. (last accessed 5 May 2017)


Affordable Housing- Could there be a solution?

As many as 3.5 million Americans suffer from homelessness every year. Homelessness can be caused by lack of affordable housing, increased unemployment, minimized minimum wage, deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, housing and social service cuts, as well as many other reasons. Specifically in the 1980s, the quality of life of New Yorkers decreased as more people lacked affordable housing and remained homeless. Koch (Mayor 1978-1989) initially did not internalize the depths of the homelessness crisis because he thought of it as only temporary. However, as time passed throughout his time in office, he noticed that this issue was serious relevant enough for him to address. He developed transitional shelters that provided private rooms for families as well as support services to help residents develop professional skills, apply for benefits, and find permanent housing. Koch also built many of these permanent housing projects and for the next decade, 4,000 apartments per year are built for shelter residents.

Rather than providing a temporary fix towards a large problem, a community in Boston attempted a more permanent solution. In the Affordable Housing Forever’s Solution article, it mentioned a woman named Correa as a success story because she was able to afford to buy a house with only $940 in mortgage payments per month. She was able to buy her house through a land trust initiative, Dudley Neighbors Incorporated, that removed vacant properties from the private market. This gave Correa and many other families the ability to purchase a house and be able to pass that same house onto their children. It’s remarkable how the trust was able to function and maintain affordable housing. Many problems arise from lack of affordable housing such as homelessness, sex trafficking, and educational issues for children brought up in unstable environments. Hopefully, programs like this one will flourish, despite the gentrification complications in the current housing environment.

Along with the gentrification of Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, came the fear from residents of other neighborhoods, like Brownsville, that their neighborhood would experience similar gentrification. Following the Trash Riots in 1970 in Brownsville, many protests sprouted from the unequal cutting of funds and resources to Brownsville. 25 percent of Brownsville’s residents in 1977 relied on public assistance, however, after 1980, things started to look better for the residents of Brownsville. Many groups provided aid in the reconstruction of the neighborhood. Affordable housing was made an importance, by building more homes and obtaining subsidies from the government to lower the prices of homes. One of the most successful parts of this project was the Nehemiah Plan, which provided housing for low income families, and provided an outlet for families to live in and contribute to making a better life for themselves. However, had Brownsville residents not protested in the 1970s, would the Nehemiah housing exist? Wealthy people could have gentrified Brownsville like other neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Because the severe trash situation in the early 70s in Brownsville, I don’t think affluent people saw any value in gentrifying Brownsville, leaving the neighborhood open to rehabilitation for its current residents. By investing in middle class families, the government will prevent many of the would be families from falling into poverty by not being able to afford a home. Attempting to go to the root cause of so many harmful side effects of the lack of affordable housing will hopefully lead the housing crisis to be no longer an issue.



What Exactly Does “Public” Mean: exclusionary factors and the case of the homeless

The redevelopment of an abandoned railroad into the High Line created a new source of tourism and revenue for the city of New York, attracting foreigners while creating yet another undemocratic and exclusive public space (Reichl 2016) where the homeless are unwelcome (Loughran 2016). As discussed in class, we often talk about the homeless with pity while inadvertently viewing them as criminals under the law, bathing, sleeping and sitting in public areas where they are not wanted. In this week’s reading Kevin Loughran (2014) raises a very interesting comparison of what it is like for a “privileged individual” to sleep in a public space versus a “less privileged” one (p. 14). He writes:

“For privileged individuals visiting the High Line, sleeping in public space represents an enormous luxury; for less privileged individuals—such as homeless people, poor people, and people of color—sleeping in public space carries the stigma of poverty and potential danger.” (p.14)

Criminalizing the homeless through enforcing laws such as not being allowed to sit on a public sidewalk (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) 2014: p. 16) makes it seem like the homeless are there with the intention of disturbing the public, which they themselves are a part of (being that the word “public” is defined as “of, relating to, or affecting all the people or the whole area of a nation or state” (Mirriam Webster n.d.)) and are deliberately and selfishly taking up space so that other people cannot walk by. It makes it seem like they have a choice: to sit there and be a nuisance, or go off to some imaginary space where they will be comfortable and not bother anyone. Some might refer to the latter as a home.  In No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities (NLCHP 2014), which clearly explains the extent to which the homeless are criminalized as well as provides alternative ways to handle their presence, it is reported that 74% of homeless people do not know of a secure place to sleep at night where they will not be harassed by the police (p. 16). Rather than criminalizing the homeless for existing, more should be done to provide them with a place to stay. In Northwest, NC there is only room for 17% of the homeless population in the area’s shelters, and Los Angeles, CA doesn’t fall far behind with room in its shelters for only 22% of the homeless population (NLCHP 2014: p.15). There is thus, clearly an issue in this nation in regards to blaming the homeless for being in a public space—which, by definition of the term, they belong in—when we are not providing a place for them to actually go. The report released by NLCHP (2014) asserts that criminalizing the homeless creates an ineffective revolving door through which the homeless pass from the court system back onto the streets and that “housing, rather than jailing, homeless people is the much more successful and cost-effective option” (p.30). Instead of forcing the homeless to be a part of this vicious cycle more needs to be done on a political level to provide them with a place to stay where they will not be harassed.

The quote featured above (Loughran 2014) as well as the case of the homeless brings us back to the question of how public are public spaces? The two words “privileged” and “luxury” provide a clear answer to this question.  The High Line is a so-called public space that not only discourages the homeless from visiting and sleeping in it, but also a person of moderate income. Visiting the park 2 years ago it was obvious that it was more suited for high-end people; the apartments nearby were very fancy, designed using unique and modern architectural styles and the vendors situated along the park sold overpriced food and art. I personally felt unwelcome and out of place—it was almost embarrassing to have to ask a man selling ice cream how much it cost and then walk away because it was unaffordable ($7 for an ice cream cone is absolutely ridiculous). Also, the signs everywhere making it known that touching the plants is forbidden made me feel very on edge. The feeling of being watched and the possibility of getting in trouble for so much as touching a blade of grass in a place that was created for me (the public) just didn’t sit well with me.

How can a place designed for the public provide discomfort to so many?  When considering the development of a new urban public space planners need to ponder more deeply about who is included in the word public. If they create the space with the intention of attracting a specific social class, perhaps they should consider not deeming it a public space. Furthermore, lawmakers, the public service sector and those involved in the criminal justice system need to reevaluate how to deal with the homeless people in this country. Rather than treating the homeless in an uncivil manner by chastising them for their existence, more shelters should be constructed and new affordable housing units specifically intended for the homeless to move into should be created.

Link to Report by NLCHP (2014):



Loughran K (2014) Parks for Profit: The High Line, Growth Machines, and the Uneven Development of Urban Public Spaces. City & Community 13(1):49-68

Mirriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.) Definition of Public. (last accessed 16 April 2017)

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) (2014) No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities. (last accessed 16 April 2017)

Reichl A. J. (2016) The High Line and the ideal of democratic public space. Urban Geography 37(6):904-925