Allison Lirish Dean

May 122011

Residents of new luxury condos in Downtown Brooklyn are getting organized. Reportedly a force of as many as 15,000, they are holding meetings and launching online forums in which they are articulating their interests, and strategizing about how to get decision-makers to act. Everything from neighborhood aesthetics to crime is on the table. An important question–not overlooked by some of the condo resident organizers themselves–is how this newly emerging constituency will interact with Downtown Brooklyn’s existing community, particularly those living in nearby public housing. The evolving role of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Metrotech BID as managers of potential conflict between these different groups will also be worth keeping an eye on.


Dec 272010

We recently discovered the Toren Flip Project, apparently designed to help market the Toren, one of the many luxury  towers that went up in the condo building frenzy that was unleashed by  the 2004 rezoning. According to the site, each of the unedited video snippets featured have “something really interesting to reveal” about the “very cool and creative people” that are deciding to live in the Toren, and “collectively paint a picture of the growing Toren community.” Check it out.

Dec 152010

The New York Times has some interesting coverage today about what the latest census data tells us about recent patterns of racial change in New York City. Fort Greene, for instance, which was affected by the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning in 2004, saw “double-digit decreases” in black residents, while white residents in that neighborhood increased from 14 to 26 percent. The data suggest that the city is being reshaped along racial lines as blacks, Latinos, Asians, and immigrants are pushed outward by gentrification.

Nov 172010

It’s not every day that the Wall Street Journal covers the Fulton Mall, so this recent article, re-posted thanks to Brownstoner, was a bit of a surprise, even if its racist undertones weren’t. The basic narrative replicated here is familiar enough: the once-great Fulton Street of the (white) department store heyday was “replaced” by an unfortunate “grungy” (read: black, lower-income) strip selling “cheap goods” and “knickknacks.” But there’s now hope of finally cleaning it all up, thanks to all the new (half-empty) luxury condos everywhere and the potential for attracting “Manhattan-type residents.” Notably, the piece fails to mention a major reason for much of the current blight: the displacement caused by the 2004 rezoning which, combined with the economic crisis, has kept many storefronts empty and construction sites stalled for years now.

Oct 292010

At last count, New York City’s Department of City Planning under Mayor Michael Bloomberg had rezoned a total of 104 neighborhoods. Many of these rezonings did not go down without a fight. Sources offer a mixed assessment of this legacy. Some compare the city’s aggressive rezoning effort to Robert Moses’ historic urban renewal agenda decades ago, while others point out that that it has had surprisingly little impact. A Furman Center report from earlier this year suggests an explanation for these opposing perspectives: The city approached zoning differently depending on the neighborhood, a process that seems to have largely played out along lines of race and class. Continue reading »

Oct 222010

"Street Value" bookOver the summer, our friends Rosten Woo and Damon Rich and their colleague Meredith TenHoor published their awesome book, Street Value: Shopping, Planning, and Politics at Fulton Mall. The book resonates with themes in Lasting Scars, especially in its documentation of how multiple generations of urban planners, city officials, and journalists have failed to see the value of the Fulton Street commercial district. Damon founded the Center for Urban Pedagogy in Brooklyn, of which Rosten was previously executive director.

Oct 142010

A number of people, including the historian Craig Steven Wilder who is featured in Lasting Scars, have made the point that public policy has become too oriented toward the creation of middle-class and even affluent spaces. Working-class and poor spaces tend to be viewed as a failure to be replaced by something else, even when, from the perspective of the people who use them, they are successful. Precious Places: A Grassroots Way of Seeing, co-authored by Allison Lirish Dean and Martha Wallner for The Next American City, looks at how media initiatives like Precious Places, a project of the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia, are helping vulnerable residents respond effectively to such policies, and assert their own narratives about what’s valuable about their communities so that they can be truly included in the planning process.