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Posts Tagged ‘grassroots’

BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A broad coalition of community organizations and officials takes a preemptive stand against gentrification.

A broad coalition of community organizations and officials takes a preemptive stand against gentrification.

From the June 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Data can be deceiving, or at the very least hard to parse. But for the residents of East Harlem, the numbers spoke loudly. On average, the community was losing nearly 300 affordable housing units per year, based on eight years of data collected by WXY Architecture + Urban Design. If real estate development continued at the current rate, more than 4,000 affordable housing units would be lost over the next 15 years. “People began to realize that a ‘do-nothing’ option was not going to result in the same old thing,” says Adam Lubinsky, a planner and managing principal at WXY. “A ‘do-nothing’ option would mean 300 homes lost per year to development.”

East Harlem, a largely Latino community where one in three residents lives below the poverty line, was also named as one of eight neighborhoods out of 15 that have been identified for rezoning by the city. Rather than wait to respond to a zoning proposal by the city’s Department of City Planning (DCP), local organizations began working vigorously with elected officials to develop recommendations for how to use zoning to preserve affordable housing stock, open space, and the community’s cultural heritage. The result was the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, and according to people involved, it marked the first time a community in New York has developed such a plan ahead of a DCP proposal.

“I’ve rarely seen such a broad-based and grassroots approach to plan and comment on zoning,” says Deborah Marton, the executive director of the New York Restoration Project, an open-space conservancy that participated in the process and also manages nine community gardens in East Harlem. “It was a sincere and messy effort that eventually resulted in (more…)

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BY SONJA DÜMPELMANN

Street tree plant-ins in New York City.

Street tree plant-ins in New York City.

From the December 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

BEDIT_Back-UrbanTrees_02_SD_LAM_Burchardt_What Are We Going To Do_1973_p14_1

White characters in What Are We Going to Do, Michael? (1973) tell the story of African American activist Hattie Carthan’s fight to save a southern magnolia tree.

In the 1973 children’s story What Are We Going to Do, Michael? 10-year-old Michael, together with his neighbor Mrs. Jacobson, helps to save an 80-year-old southern magnolia tree that is threatened with being cut down to make way for an urban renewal project in their neighborhood. Nellie Burchardt’s story is based upon true facts and events that occurred in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Yet, the way in which Burchardt portrays Michael and Mrs. Jacobson belies parts of the true story. In the children’s book, the two protagonists appear as white residents of a run-down, racially diverse neighborhood. In reality, Mrs. Jacobson was Hattie Carthan, an African American woman in her 70s living on a deteriorating neighborhood block in Bedford-Stuyvesant. By 1970, Bedford-Stuyvesant had become one of the largest African American communities in the United States, and, as Harold X. Connolly wrote in 1977, “a code word…for America’s unresolved urban and race problems.” It is unclear whether Burchardt’s choice to change the race of her protagonists had anything to do with the sales or readership aspirations for the book, or with the more idealist educational and egalitarian aspirations to cultivate white children’s empathy and awareness of nature in the city and of its ethnically and racially diverse citizenry, or, in turn, even with an unabashed racism. In any case the choice of the story itself as well as the changes made to its principal characters reflect (more…)

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