New article on Urban Omnibus

Rather than wait for a development proposal that the neighborhoods’ divergent communities would merely oppose or support, we took proactive steps to spark dialogue. We wanted people to see SPURA in new ways, and to spur desperately needed conversations between people with different points of view about SPURA’s past, present, and future.

With “In the Same Room Without Screaming” I discuss my 5-year oral history, exhibition, community organizing, and engaged pedagogy project at the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. Read the whole piece here

Without dialogue, we end up with stalemate and stagnation in the best case. In the worst, violence against people and property erupts.

Editors' introduction: 

What are we going to do about SPURA?” For more than 40 years, the question seemed to defy any answer. The only thing being built in the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, the largest undeveloped tract of city-owned land in Manhattan, was resentment. Finally, last summer, construction began on a mixed-used development, the first phase of which will open its doors in 2018. The proposal’s language and renderings appear to paint a picture of compromise: 1,000 rental units, half of which will be”permanently affordable” (though many have questioned how truly affordable the housing will be), sitting alongside commercial areas, public green space, and private condos. Of course, at SPURA, where conflict has snagged the social fabric for decades, disagreement about the success of the planning process persists. Nevertheless, here, Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani describes how a coalition of public historians, students, artists, activists, and planners tried to make “community engagement” in that process more than just a nice idea — and in so doing, attempted to mend rifts that many thought were permanent.

Read the article here

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani