Contested City excerpt in Public Seminar

Get a sneak peek at Contested City in this excerpt from Chapter 2 “Walking the City”, recently published by Public Seminar.

Several years after my work in Brooklyn, Oakland, and the Vladeck Houses, I returned to the Lower East Side, this time as a professor of urban studies at the New School and director of Buscada, which combines art and research practices in urban neighborhoods. Marci Reaven, a historian and director of City Lore’s Place Matters project, took me on a walk as I was creating a community-engaged class for my first semester of teaching. Marci suggested that perhaps my new class could work with Place Matters and the longtime housing and neighborhood activists, Good Old Lower East Side, on their current project: SPURA Matters.

“SPURA,” I asked. “What’s that?”

On our thirty-minute walk, heading east from the New School on 12th Street, zigzagging south and eventually onto and across Grand Street, Marci began to tell me the painful stories of SPURA, stories of disappointment, displacement, and discrimination involving this failed urban renewal site. The awkward blocks of parking lots just north of Grand Street that I had unconsciously avoided when I worked at the Abrons Art Center suddenly made sense. The area was uncomfortable because it was unfinished. It was uncomfortable because it held pain and open wounds in its very fabric. And as we walked, Cherise and all the others from Artscape and those first guided tours came rushing back to me. So did my walks with my grandmother, my walks to meet my aunt at the diner on Grand Street near the school where she taught, and my childhood shopping forays with my mother to Orchard Street. I knew this place so well. Yet Marci was telling me another story, one I didn’t know at all.

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Read the full excerpt here.