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.
Over 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.
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.