Click here for a printable pdf version of the Spring 2017 Syllabus
‘Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.’ – Robert F. Kennedy
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF NEW YORK CITY – HNRS 226
M & W: 1:40-2:55 pm
Room: Honors 9
Instructor: Scott Larson
Office: Powdermaker 250C
Office hours: M & W, noon-1:30 pm or by appointment
Instructional Technology Fellow: Amanda Matles
Office: Honors Lounge
Office Hours: W, 1-5 pm or by appointment
This syllabus is subject to change
The aim of this course is to analyze the ongoing interplay of social, economic, and political forces that shape the physical form and social dynamics of New York City. By looking at certain historical junctures and major development policies and initiatives we will study the institutional agents of change in the city – federal, state and city government; public authorities; private sector interests; community boards; and community-based organizations – in order to understand how decisions are made and power and opportunity are (unevenly) distributed in the city. In doing so we will explore the close relationship between physical space and social relations, including the interplay of inequality, race, gender and class.
Throughout the semester, students engage in a team research project to be presented at a model academic conference at the end of the semester.
In the seminar, students will:
- Use primary sources, both qualitative and quantitative, especially in their research projects, to understand community institutions, the local economy, and the role of government.
- Develop an understanding of how power differentially affects New York City’s people, its built environment, and its institutions through site visits, case studies, or research projects.
- Develop the ability to engage in key contemporary debates that shape the future of the city through in-class discussions, presentations, and colloquia.
- Develop an understanding of the formal and informal institutions underlying decision making in the city by analyzing historical and contemporary planning and policy issues.
All readings will be posted on the course web page.
Attendance/participation 10 points
3 short writing assignments 30 points (10 each)
Course blog posts (2) and responses (2) 20 points (5 each post, 5 each response)
Group project/presentation 40 points
You are expected to show up for class prepared to discuss the required reading assignments.
Short writing assignments:
Three 4-5 page short “thought” essays, in which you will take a position on an issue or debate and offer evidence from course readings and materials as well as your own research to support your point of view.
Assignment #1 Which early feature – Central Park? The institution of the street grid? The creation of the Erie Canal? Something else? – most defined and influenced New York City’s spatial, social and economic future?
due February 15
Assignment #2 Whose vision – that of Robert Moses or Jane Jacobs – best situates New York City for the future?
due March 13
Assignment #3 Is New York a “successful city?”
due May 17
Posts: TWO times during the semester on assigned dates, each student will be responsible for posting a link to an article (news or scholarly), video, podcast, interactive map, exhibit, data set, report, etc. that relates to the day’s topic. In addition, you will provide us with a brief written statement of how you think the link contributes to our understanding of the topic at hand.
Responses: TWICE during the semester, on assigned dates, each student should post a response to the blog post for the day.
Your task here is not to summarize the link you posted or are responding to. INSTEAD, YOU SHOULD PLACE ITS CONTENTS WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE ASSIGNED READINGS FOR THE CLASS. IN OTHER WORDS, YOU ARE TO OFFER INSIGHTS, COMMENTS AND CRITIQUES AND POSE IDEAS THAT PROMOTE DISCUSSION OF THE TOPIC OF THE DAY.
Readings where we will have scheduled blogs and responses are marked in the course schedule with *. There is also a blog/response schedule on the course website.
Group projects involve independent and team research into a contemporary problem or issue faced by New York City, based on the research and learning that has gone on in class. Group presentations should take the form of a proposal for addressing the problem/issue chosen.
We will discuss these projects, including sample topics, in more detail on Feb. 8. Over the course of the semester we have occasional group working sessions in which you and your mates will work on your particular project.
Presentations should be 15 minutes in length and will serve as trial runs for the CUNY-wide Macaulay presentations May 6-7.
NOTE: Unlike the physical and other “hard” sciences or related subjects (i.e. mathematics or economics), the social sciences in general and urban geography in particular are not built on fixed concepts anchored in immutable “facts” that lead in a straight line to “right” answers. As a result, we will rarely approach issues as if there is a correct way to think. Instead, our aim is to critically engage with the topics at hand and to develop well-informed, well-constructed perspectives on how policy solutions or proposals impact the city and its residents.
To critically engage does not mean we will merely criticize. Our aim is to look beyond singularly celebratory or condemnatory points of view to focus on understanding the complex nature of contemporary urban debates and the issues and figures that inform them.
Jan. 30 – Course introduction
Feb. 1 – Early New York City
Roberts, Sam. 200th Birthday for the map that made New York, New York Times, March 20, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/nyregion/21grid.html
“Introduction,” and Chapter 3, “Private to Public Property,” in Rosenzweig, Roy and Elizabeth Blackmar, The Park and the People: A History of Central Park, pp. 1-11, 59-91
Feb. 6 – Order and Disorder
Film: Episode 2, New York: A Documentary
Feb. 8 – Research projects: topics, groups, project types
Feb. 13 – NO CLASS (LINCOLN’S BIRTHDAY)
Feb. 15 – Writing assignment 1 due/in-class discussion
Feb. 20 – NO CLASS (PRESIDENTS DAY
Feb. 22 – Group working session
Feb 27 – Order and Disorder, cont.
“New York City Before Robert Moses” and “Wait Until the Evening,” in Caro, Robert. 1974.
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, pp. 323-346; 5-21
Film: “City of Tomorrow,” Episode 6, New York: A Documentary
x- March 1 – Robert Moses – Master Builder or Evil Genius?
“Introduction,” Ballon, Hillary and Kenneth Jackson. 2007. In Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York, Hillary Ballon and Kenneth Jackson, eds. pp. 65-66
“Equipping the Public Realm: Rethinking Robert Moses and Recreation,” Gutman, Marta. 2007. In Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York, Hillary Ballon and Kenneth Jackson, eds. pp. 72-85
x-March 6 – Saint Jane and Reaction to Robert Moses and the Modern World
Chapter 1, “Introduction,” Jacobs, Jane. 1961. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, pp. 3-25
Chapter 7, “The generators of diversity,” Jacobs, Jane. 1961. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, pp. 143-151
“Who Wears Jane Jacobs’s Mantle in Today’s New York City?” Halle, David. 2006. City and Community, 5(3): 237-241
March 8 – group working session
March 13 – Writing assignment 2/in-class discussion
March 15 – group working session
x-March 20 – Times Square – Rebirth or Revanchism?
Reconstructing Times Square, Reichl, Alexander. 1999, pp. 43-63
Times Square Red/Times Square Blue, Delany, Samuel. 1999, pp. 145-168
March 22 – group working session
x-March 27 – RPA Third Regional Plan
“Introduction” and “Overview: A Region at Risk.” 1996. In A Region at Risk: The Third Regional Plan for The New York-New Jersey-Connecticut Metropolitan Area, pp. 1-4, 5-9
Chapter 5, “Planning and the Narrative of Threat,” Larson, Scott. 2013. In Building Like Moses With Jacobs in Mind: Contemporary Planning In New York City, pp. 59-76
March 29 – Discussion, individual visits to the exhibit, Mastering the Metropolis: New York and Zoning, 1916-2016, at the Museum of the City of New York (click for further instructions).
x-April 3 – Bloomberg’s NYC: (Re)Zoning as a tool for remaking the city
Chapter 3, “The Bloomberg Practice;” Chapter 6, “The Armature For Development,” and Chapter 9, “Design as Civic Virtue,” Larson, Scott. 2013. In Building Like Moses With Jacobs in Mind: Contemporary Planning In New York City, pp. 33-43, 77-96, 133-144
Film: Rezoning Harlem
April 5 – group working session
APRIL 10-APRIL 18 – NO CLASS (Spring Break)
x-April 19 – Parks and Public Spaces
“Parks for Profit: The High Line, Growth Machines, and the Uneven Development of Urban Public Spaces,” Loughran, Kevin. 2014. City & Community, 13(1): 49-65
“Community Parks Initiative Targeted Improvements,” http://www.nycgovparks.org/about/framework-for-an-equitable-future/community-parks-initiative/caring
April 24 – group working session
April 26 – Final project practice presentations
May 1 – Final project practice presentations
May 3 – Presentation revisions
MAY 6-7 – CUNY-wide Macaulay presentations
x-May 8 – Housing and Affordability
“How East Harlem wrote its own development plan,” Perry Abello, Oscar. Next City. https://nextcity.org/features/view/east-harlem-neighborhood-plan-upzoning-affordable-housing
“Affordable Housing’s Forever Solution,” Blumgart, Jake. Next City. https://nextcity.org/features/view/affordable-housings-forever-solution
x-May 10 – Climate Change and Environmental (in)Justice
“The Disaster Inside the Disaster,” Greenberg, Miriam. 2014. New Labor Forum, 23 (1): 44-52
“The Flood Next Time,” Jarrett Murphy. 2015. The Nation
“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
May 15 – The Future and the “Smart City”
“Instrumental City: The View From Hudson Yards, Circa 2019,” Mattern, S. 2016. Places Journal
“Mine Your Data: Open Data, Digital Strategies and Entrepreneurial Governance by Code,” Barns, S. 2016. Urban Geography.
“Is New York City’s Public Wifi Actually Connecting the Poor?”, Huber, L. 2016. Vice
“Building a Smart and Equitable City,” NYC Digital. 2015. Mayor’s Office of Tech and Innovation.
May 17 – Writing assignment 3/in-class discussion
Final projects due May 17