FoodWaterShelter in NYC

Reconstructing the Basic Necessities


You may tell yourself – this is not my beautiful house.
You may ask yourself – how do I work this?
You may ask yourself – well, how did I get here?

We love NYC. We want to live here. Meanwhile, the vibrant diversity of our neighborhoods is being homogenized by huge rents and chain stores; public space is disappearing, and hope for building an affordable life –especially with a family– is becoming almost irrational. But there are many people innovating and experimenting with viable alternatives and analyses, ways to make NYC more livable, so everyone can 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.


June 2006 : The Ukrainian Hall


Dialogue One

NYC Food 101

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 as well as some proliferating and successful initiatives that attempt to make it work better.


“Now CSA’s accept food stamps as do NYC’s green markets, 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.”

Christine Quinn



Kathy Goldman is a long-time community activist who has been working on food, hunger and poverty issues since 1965. In 1980, she founded the Community Food Resource Center (CFRC) now part of the Food Bank for New York City, and served as its Executive Director until 2003. Her advocacy work has focused on passage of federal food programs, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child nutrition programs. CFRC has been a close watchdog of how federal nutrition assistance programs are administered and utilized in New York City, and impact the 2 million low-income New York City residents. Kathy was one of the founders of the Food Bank for New York City in 1983 and has worked on other innovative programs, including efforts to empower low-income communities and families to take an active role in their nutrition and health. She currently serves as co-director of Community Food Advocates, Inc., with long-time colleague Agnes Molnar. Kathy lives in NYC and has three children and five grandchildren.  Ms Goldman was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her decades of work around food security issues.
In January 2006, NYC City Council Members overwhelmingly chose Christine C. Quinn to be Speaker. Speaker Quinn has been a food justice activist for decades alsongside Ms. Goldman.



Dialogue Two

The Past, Present & Future of Rents, Real Estate & Neighborhoods

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.


“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.”

Brad Lander



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. [ As of 2006 ]


NYC Population Growth and Changes
Between 1970-2000 :

650,000 Manufacturing Jobs (Traditional Middle Class) lost, down 15%. These were replaced by 760,000 “Service Jobs”, up 19% (the majority of which are Low-Income Jobs).

From 1990-2000 the population has grown by 840,000 residents

The largest population gain has been from immigrants and low-income families. (up 3%). The city has actually lost median-income residents (down 3.5%)- flight of white, black and Latino residents

From 1970-2000- Income for the richest 1/5 of the NYC population grew by 50% (remained level with the increase of housing costs) WHILE income for the poorest 1/5 dropped by 29%.


100,000 Housing Unites Controlled by the city (Affordable Housing units, public housing units) in 1979 has dropped to in 2005

Public Funding in NYC for Housing has dropped from $760 million in 1979 to just under $300 million in 2006
There were 10K building permits in 1979 this has grown to 33K building permits in 2006. The vast majority of these are high-end luxury apartments being constructed. This does not fit the demand of the growing low-income population.

New “controlled” units remain at the same level, as controlled units are being deregulated new units are being allocated that keep the levels equal


Increases the value of real-estate- creates neighborhoods attractive to young, middle-class, mostly white people.

Real Estate prices in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill rose 42% from 2004-2005

Corcoran now has listings in Williamsburg & Bed-Stuy

In Downtown Brooklyn, out of the 9000 units being built, over 90% are high-end luxury apartments. Only 3% are for middle-Income residents. Less than 4% are for low-income residents.

Rent Regulation

In 1994 about 500 units were deregulated. In 2004, 9000 units were deregulated. Attempts are made to keep controlled units at the same level, but no new units are being created.

 The 3 A’s of Housing:

 Vacancy in NYC is about 3%, healthy economic level is 5.5%  
The population has grown by 1 million since 1980 and is expected to grow by 1.5 million by 2025

Rents have increased by 33% since 1975. Incomes have increased by 3%
Nearly 25% of all NYC renters pay over 50% of their income to housing costs (25% of these people make under 27,000)

23% of renters live in overcrowded units
There has been a 34% increase in overcrowded units from 1999-2002
There are over 100,000 illegal housing units in NYC



Dialogue Three

Your Neighborhood 101

How is your neighborhood organized?  Why are the City’s rent laws controlled by the state government in Albany? What is a community board, a community development corporation, a block association, and how do they interact with city governance?  Has anyone every heard of ULURP?? or how it changes our neighborhoods?

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:



For better or worse, community boards are your voice in local politics. They were started in the 1950s for that purpose, to give citizens a voice in city politics…  while they have no legally binding power, they are set up to be advisees, in particular to the Boro President. But as we’ve seen most recently, they have a lot to say over land use issues. When you look at the amazing campaign and work of CB1 and what they achieved for their district in the rezoning plan of Greenpoint/Willamsburg – it’s an incredibly inspiring story — and what’s taking place right now between CB9 and Columbia University in Harlem speaks to a really meaningful connection and impact of community boards on the disposition of land use negotiations in our neighborhoods in this city.

Exactly what is a Community Board



Julie Miles is the Director of Housing Here and Now, a citywide coalition of 100+ community groups, religious leaders, labor unions and affordable housing groups organizing to create and preserve for housing for ALL New Yorkers. Housing Here and Now is breaking the cycle of politics and power that puts decent housing out of reach for millions of New Yorkers. This new and feisty coalition of affordable housing groups, labor unions, AIDS activists, churches and community groups have joined together to seize the opportunity presented by a Mayoral election year to demand that our city leaders guarantee housing for every New Yorker.                       

Alyssa Katz, born and raised in NYC, just finished a six-year run as editor of City Limits, the news and policy magazine covering NYC’s neighborhoods and the forces that shape them. She’s currently the magazine’s editor-at-large. Under her editorship, City Limits led the local media on coverage of vital issues affecting neighborhoods, including affordable housing, economic and environmental justice, and the welfare of children and families. Among other investigative reports, the magazine exposed major fraud in a federal housing program, the ejection of failing students from high schools, the misuse of a brownfields tax credit, and the improper awarding of welfare-to-work contracts by the Giuliani administration while also chronicling the innovations and triumphs of community development and activism in New York. Ms. Katz also writes for The Nation and The American Prospect and teaches journalism at New York University and Hunter College. Prior to covering civic affairs, she was a cultural critic for The Village Voice, Spin and The Nation.



Dialogue Four

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 status quos, and getting sh*t done.


Guest Speakers
[bios 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.  
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.  
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.
Brad Lander