Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Zoned Out!

Zoned Out! Race, Displacement, and City Planning in New York City
Tom Angotti, Sylvia Morse (Editors)
UR (Urban Research), 2017

Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 176 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0996004138 | $20.00

Publisher Description:
Gentrification and displacement of low-income communities of color are major issues in New York City and the city’s zoning policies are a major cause. Race matters but the city ignores it when shaping land use and housing policies. The city promises “affordable housing” that is not truly affordable. Zoned Out! shows how this has played in Williamsburg, Harlem and Chinatown, neighborhoods facing massive displacement of people of color. It looks at ways the city can address inequalities, promote authentic community-based planning and develop housing in the public domain.
dDAB Commentary:
In March, when my book NYC Walks was released, I was fortunate enough to be in conversation with Michael Sorkin at Rizzoli Bookstore. Following our talk and me signing a few copies of my book, I passed by titles from Sorkin's UR Books (an imprint of his nonprofit Terreform) conveniently located by the register. The product placement worked and I walked out with a copy of Zoned Out!, the best-selling book out of UR's roughly dozen titles to date. Previously I've reviewed a few UR titles: Downward Spiral: El Helicoide's Descent from Mall to PrisonLetters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City, and Spaces of Disappearance: The Architecture of Extraordinary Rendition. The diversity of subject matter, the quality of the scholarship, and the progressive ideals shared by the various subjects are highly commendable in the case of those three books. The same can be said of Zoned Out!, which features six chapters on the role of zoning in displacing low-income communities of color in New York City.

The first and last chapters come from Angotti, a stalwart of community-based planning and an enemy of REBNY and YIMBYs throughout the city. In the first chapter Angotti spells out how zoning is legally defined and is used by the city at the behest of "the land market" to promote new development: in 140 areas by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and 15 to date by his successor, Bill de Blasio. The last chapter focuses on community-based planning and, in concert with the first chapter, is aligned with his assertion that planning is not practiced in New York City but needs to be. (In between is a chapter on race and zoning, and three chapters with case studies of zoning displacement in action: in Williamsburg, Harlem, and Chinatown.) Right around the time of my conversation with Sorkin, Angotti spoke to the Charter 2019 NYC Revision Commission, arguing for the Department of City Planning to actually do community planning rather than relying on zoning for shaping the city. (His remarks and those of other pro-planning advocates are on YouTube.) The side of me that believes in the benefits of urban planning hope he sways the commission, but the cynical side of me sees the continuation of zoning as-is, with land-use decisions benefiting developers and new residents rather than people who actually live and work in the communities targeted for rezonings. With zoning so far entrenched in the machinations of city government, real estate, and architecture, reorienting it toward more just ends seems insurmountable. Zoned Out! is a perfect place for pro-planning progressives to prepare their protestations.

Author Bio:
Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College, the Graduate Center, and City University of New York, and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development. He is author of New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, which won the 2009 Davidoff Book Award.
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