Progressive City, Planners Network online publication, recently published Sam Stein’s introductory keynote, “The Urgency and Uncertainty of ‘Progressive Planning’ Today.” Stein presented at the 2019 Planners Network Conference (PN2019), a multi-city event held at New York City, Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, and Tacoma.
PN2019 - NYC was held at Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment. Terreform tabled together with comrade publisher, The New Village Press. Terreform associate, Casey Breen, reports below.
Street Lessons and Learning from Planners Network Conference
BY Casey Breen
I was stirred up by Sam Stein’s questions of what it means to be progressive and his arguments for the urgent need for new modes of planning. They served as guides as I moved through the panels and conversations. As a student of mathematics and architecture, my knowledge of planning is primarily from canonical texts. This conference was a headfirst dive into its other sides — activism, advocacy, organizing — how the work actually gets done on the ground.
I attended two panels based on my interest in housing inequity. The first panel was on “Building Tenant Power, Holding Banks Accountable for Predatory Equity”. Jim Markowich, a Tenant Leader at Tenants Taking Control Coalition, told us about his experience bonding together with his neighbors against the mistreatment of their new landlord. He spoke of his surprise in “discovering the multifaceted skillset of the people around him” and the power this imbued in their fight to leverage their rights as tenants. Brandon Kielbasa, Director of Organizing at Cooper Square Committee, advised listeners on the purpose of organizing practices as a way for “people to see the systematic nature of the issues they face.” Both spoke about the larger factors at play in these mistreatments, such as how banks force landlords to kick out rent-controlled tenants if [the landlords] want any hope of paying back their mortgages.”
The second panel I attended was “Resistance to Gentrification and Global Real Estate Finance in Sunset Park, Brooklyn”. I remember the electrifying moment when the audience voiced their experiences growing up in the neighborhood. A multitude of languages — Chinese, Spanish, English —seemingly clashed but all came to a halt on agreement in their mistrust of Industry City’s promise to provide new jobs in their local community. Then an activist from Brazil, Emilia Maria de Souza, chimed in with her concerns. In Portuguese with consecutive English translation, she reminded us that while the issues discussed in the context of Sunset Park and Industry City were place-based, it was part of a much larger global phenomenon.
This conference introduced me to questions that had never occurred to me even needed to be asked. It was inspiring to meet with researchers, organizers, activists, and community members — each with differing perspectives on what it means to be progressive, and what we all should be striving for. While I left with my own personal answer on Stein’s question — what the nature of progressive planning should be — not fully fleshed out, I know it was a start of a working answer; and more importantly, I’m itching to find out more!
Hum, Tarry. “Get Ready Sunset Park, ‘Brooklyn’ is Coming”: The Real Estate Imperatives of an Innovation Ecosystem.” Progressive City.
Hum, Tarry. Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014.
Pannum, Hari. “Horto Will Protest Against Eviction ‘However Many Times is Necessary”. Rio on Watch.
Stein, Samuel B. Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State. New York: Verso, 2019.
Stein, Samuel B. “The Urgency and Uncertainty of ‘Progressive Planning’ Today.” Progressive City.