We love NYC. We want to live here. Meanwhile, we’re witnessing the vibrant diversity of our neighborhoods being homogenized by huge rents and the fungus of chain stores; public space is disappearing and hope for building an affordable life, especially with a family, is almost irrational. But there are many people innovating and experimenting with viable alternatives and analyses – ways to make NYC more livable – so everyone can continue to love living here. For this year’s Foundry Dialogues, we’ve invited some of these innovators to help us unpack some of the historical and political structures that currently shape NYC and inspire us to re-imagine how else our city might be organized.
Featuring: Brad Lander, Christine Quinn, Kathy Goldman, Julie Miles, Alyssa Katz, Oona Chatterjee, Elizabeth Streb, Esther Robinson
Forum 1: NYC Food 101
Food in a city that leads the nation in food waste, over 400,000 New Yorkers suffer from moderate to severe hunger. While participation in NYC’s federally funded Food Stamp Program continues to drop, the city’s soup kitchens report significant increases in demand. But the proliferation of food justice activism is beginning to build solutions.
Distinguished food justice activist Kathy Goldman and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn lead this teach-in and community dialogue – on how food works and doesn’t work in NYC and some of the successful, proliferating initiatives that attempt to make it work better.
“Now CSA’s accept food stamps as do NYC’s greenmarkets, which also work with recent immigrants with agricultural expertise looking to re-enter farming. Many are Latin Americans who are able to grow specialty crops like epazote or pepiche, unknown to American farmers. In fact, the most effective answer to the food desert in Washington Heights has been the terrific green market there – farmers are now growing vegetables used in Dominican cooking.”
Forum 2: The Past, Present & Future of Rents, Real Estate & Neighborhoods
“In 2006, in Downtown Brooklyn, out of the 9000 units being built, over 90% were high-end luxury apartments. Only 3% were for middle-income residents. Less than 4% were for low-income residents.” In our next dialogue, community development trailblazer Brad Lander breaks down the history of NYC’s urban development, housing market, patterns of neighborhood development and upheavals, and alternative ideas for living together in the city.
(As of 2006) Brad Lander is the Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, the oldest university-based advocacy, planning, and technical assistance organization in the U.S. The center brings the skills of architects, planners, and development professionals together in service to community-based organizations struggling to address issues of urban deterioration and persistent poverty. Before coming to Pratt, Brad was, for ten years, the Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), a Brooklyn-based community development organization.
Forum 3: Your Neighborhood 101
“How is your neighborhood organized? Why are New York City’s rent laws controlled by the state government in Albany? What is a community board, a community development corporation. or a block association? How do these agencies interact with city governance?” Julie Miles, Campaign Director of Housing Here and Now, and Alyssa Katz, journalist and Editor-at-Large of City Limits, hold a basic civics lesson on the structural governance of neighborhoods and effective ways to participate in their ongoing development.
Forum 4: Gentrification and its Discontents
With artists, community organizers and urban planners, this dialogue explored artists’ unintended complicity in the gentrification of neighborhoods. How can we live and work in New York without creating the conditions for our own displacement, and worse, the displacement of those who were there before us? Communities are organizing themselves to disrupt this cycle of upheaval. Laws are being challenged and changed. Artists are developing new ways to integrate their work with the needs of local constituents. “Gentrification and its Discontents” looks to the actions of people who are tipping the scales, unsettling the status quo, and getting sh*t done.
(As of 2006) Oona Chatterjee is the Co-Founder of Make The Road By Walking, a community run organization in Bushwick, Brooklyn, dedicated to empowering residents to advocate for their rights and improve conditions in their neighborhood. Oona is a graduate of Yale University and New York University School of Law.
(As of 2006) Elizabeth Streb was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ award in 1997. She is currently the Dean’s Special Scholar at New York University at the Draper Program, working towards an M.A. in Time and Space studying Physics, Philosophy and Architecture. Streb Lab (S.L.A.M) is located in Willamsburg, Brooklyn and functions simultaneously as a performance/rehearsal space, a teaching facility, and a community center.
(As of 2006) Esther Robinson has worked on behalf of American artists for over 14 years as foundation program officer, television and film producer, and technology entrepreneur. She is Director of Film/Video and Performing Arts for the Creative Capital Foundation and one of the principal architects of its innovative grant-making system. Currently, she is the founder of ArtHome, a non-profit business that helps artists and their communities build assets and equity through financial literacy and home-ownership.