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. City planning commissioner Amanda Burden explained in a New York Times piece how the city “downzoned” (or protected through “contextual rezoning”) neighborhoods where “the threat was greatest to the neighborhood fabric,” and “upzoned” those where “reinvestment was needed.” The former tended to be affluent brownstone communities such as Park Slope, while the latter were mostly lower-income Black and Latino communities. But what does “reinvestment” mean, what is “neighborhood fabric” anyway, and when is it worth preserving? And most importantly, who decides? Using the rezoning and redevelopment of the celebrated and maligned Fulton Street Mall in Downtown Brooklyn as a lens, Lasting Scars examines these questions, and whether the types of investment these upzonings produced helped fulfill the true needs of the communities they most affected. Here is a clip of Purnima Kapur, director of the Brooklyn office of city planning, discussing the impacts of the city’s rezonings, followed by another of author, professor, and community planner Tom Angotti offering a counter  perspective.

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