Author Archives: Shuwen


What city walking experiences do you have in common with the writer? What in your experience is different from what he wrote about? What do you think of the power of serendipity to “expose our commonalities,” as he puts it?

I live in Brooklyn surrounding by low-rise buildings and residential houses which is a quite diverse place. Brooklyn’s population is made up of different immigrants. It means there are so many different living style within 500 square miles. I can buy Mexican food for breakfast closed by the train station when I go to school. I can do exercise in the gym room few blocks away from my house. Lots of trees standing along two sidewalks that allow me to watch the falling leaves during the Fall and appreciate them growing back in the Spring. Same neighbors pass by every day become a scenery line of my life. Brooklyn is a beautiful place to explore without overcrowded traffic.
I saw the common scene in the street with Garnette Cadogan in Due North when I walked to the park three blocks away from my house. There is a restaurant with small bar and plant a lot of pretty flowers around the wall outside the door. The owner put some tables and chairs outside to allow people to hangout. There are a lot of people gather together to watch World Cup in the restaurant and holding bears in their hands. A loud cheer came up when their favorite team won. Even though I was not a part of them, I still felt happy when I heart they laugh. They don’t know each other at the first begin, but they can share their stories and the opinions about the politics. I think this is a city’s energy and gift.
The power of serendipity to “expose our commonalities” should be a positive attitude that we have toward to the life. We embrace the happiness and sadness in our life, and our happiness can be conveyed and sadness can be reduced with sharing to other people.

Shuwen Chen-POST 1 – 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 have a right to the city such as engaging the city improvement schemes and ways to live. In the film “Brooklyn”, Anderson shows us the gentrification of Brooklyn begins in 1988. The old neighborhood is forced to reshaping due to the government’s plan of rezoning. As a result, hundred small businesses are evited by the developers and the politicians. Small stores are replaced by high rise luxury housing and chain retail. The small store owners are so desperate about to be forced to moving out of their district due to the “improvements” by the developers and politicians. The old residents who created a culture that got dismissed with oblivious racism. The city officials disregard the needs of the less privileged is as same as much-maligned as Robert Moses. The film of Citizen Jane: Battle For The City is about Jane Jacobs has a voice against the most powerful ideas that urban planning movement of willing to displace the entire city blocks by rebuilding them, and she doesn’t agree the beautiful architecture was superior to crowded streets. She insists the mixture of stores, offices, and housings for longtime residents will make the city great rather than nationwide to build new high-rise, civic plazas, and office buildings interspersed with parks. Compared to Le Corbusier saw the streets as “an dislocated organ” that is crowed, noisy and unpleasant and want to change it by building multiple high-rise and beautiful skyscrapers, Jane Jacobs saw something different about the streets that she thinks a “sidewalk ballet” of people interacting with and depending on each other. Longtime residents know their neighbors for long time which provide them emotional connection and make them feel safe in their life. Jacobs focus on civil lives such as how sewer system working, what exist in that area for people use a lot, and the connection between the streets and the neighborhoods and the function of the city that is similar as the ecosystem. In the other hand, Robert Moses is a hungry and powerful man who built highways, housings, parks by displacing thousands of people. He is willing to sacrifice small group of people to achieve his goal, and he would take down anyone in his path without caring the consequences of his actions. Even though some plans are good for the city, his action causes lots of people get isolated and desperate.

The local government should implement the solution such as create special zoning to protect small business by limiting land owners who couldn’t consolidate several small areas to build big and high-rise buildings for privilege people. They should facilitate the development of communities and their life style on the basis of the right to the city and the right to living. Urban planners and developers can not just come in and build something they want without considering the old neighborhoods. They need to figure out the way to preserve the neighborhood character while improving the city and inviting the density, and they have to build enough affordable housings for the old habitants, they must avoid increasing the segregation and inequality in the city. Both of developers, government and urban planner need to reform the land use process and create benefits for communities with their consciousness about the preserving the old neighborhoods in stead of treating them as an obstacle to powerful people to making more money, and ensure the city with sustainability, democracy, equity, and social justice. People do have their own rights to the city which is about democratic control in the city with the right to access, occupy and use urban area instead of demolishing and evicting the old neighborhoods.