Blog Post 01: The Right to the City

Do people have a right to the city? Do longtime residents and businesses have a right to remain where they are?  If so, how should local governments, urban planners, and other decision-makers ensure these rights are maintained?*

    People should have a right to the city because they are the ones who built the community rather than just a group of buildings. Long time residents and businesses should have some kind of participation to decide how their community is managed and developed in a fair way. The documentary “My Brooklyn”, explores the results caused by gentrification and displacement in a neighborhood, such as when a city government rezones an area to build expensive properties out of the financial reach of long time residents and small businesses. One of the parts of the film shows interviews of wrenching stories of small businesses that have to be evicted by rent increases or demolitions that are going to be done in the area. The wig store owner who does not know how she will pay her children’s college tuition and the man who ran his own restaurant for 26 years are some of the small business owners who feel powerless to see that their businesses are threatened with displacement by a large condo development. It’s hard not to feel that a luxury store is a bad replacement for these small companies that worked so hard to get their businesses going. Not only were these people forced to displaced their businesses within 30 days but they were not even able to publish fliers of their relocation for their customers of years. Another film that has the same issues of unfair gentrification and displacement is “Citizen Jane: The Battle for the City”, which explore resistance movements against urban renewal programs that affected the community in many ways. In this film you see housing projects rise up, only to be demolished when they were recognized as failures buildings. Robert Moses was a powerful public official who had no mercy to displace and demolish buildings to get what he wanted in his own way. Moses describes urban chaos as cancer that was needed to be surgically removed by demolishing. Local governments, urban planners, and other decision-makers should ensure these rights are maintained by listening suggestions of long time residents so cities grow without destroying the diversity and demonstrating what makes them unique as a community.


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