The Trump Agenda vs. Pluralism: Analysis + Resistance Lecture Series

Pratt Institute’s Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment (GCPE) and the New York City Justice Alliance Agenda (NYC-EJA), moderated by Ron Shiffman and Eddie Bautista, held a four-part lecture series offering a live analysis and examination of the Trump administration’s first 100 days.

The series were on the following:
FEB. 24.Cities Resist. MAR. 3. Sanctuary Cities for All. MAR. 31. No Fear, No Hate: Fighting Segregation + Displacement. APR. 7. Climate Change + Environmental Justice.
The following are reflections.

We have to redefine what sanctuary cities are. We commonly think about sanctuary cities as places that welcome refugees and immigrants, but we need to think about these cities more broadly, and welcome, protect, and defend all vulnerable populations. Specifically, our base building should reach deeper into public housing communities.

I have been working with Gehl Institute and Pratt Institute as a public life and public safety researcher at Ingersoll Houses, a public housing community in Fort Greene, Brooklyn since October 2016. I am also writing my thesis on Ingersoll residents’ struggles to exert control over their public spaces. Mark Winston-Griffith, Executive Director of Brooklyn Movement Center, asserted that sanctuary cities must provide the opportunity for people to have the resiliency to remain where they live — through housing. This idea of community resiliency has been especially important with my work at Ingersoll, where residents are frustrated that the new residents in the shiny luxury towers across the street (that loom over Ingersoll’s brick buildings) are awarded more privileges, while Ingersoll residents have not seen much change on their own development. Ingersoll residents struggle in deteriorating building conditions, and are not allowed to make cosmetic or other maintenance changes to their units. Thus, with a lack of control over their units, having a sense of ownership and a sense of control over their public realm becomes even more crucial.

As neighborhoods inevitably change, it is important that vulnerable populations, such as public housing residents, are given the tools and opportunity to remain in their communities that they have built up. My thesis proposes activating the public realm to give a sense of ownership and control to Ingersoll residents. These activations includes the personalizing their living environment, such as painting murals on walls or creating art installations that speak to the history and culture of that place; expanding community gardens; more programming and activity on the grounds; more much needed amenities that will enhance their living environment; and giving residents more freedom on the grounds to barbecue and congregate as they please.

The panel showed me that this is what makes a sanctuary city. My thesis work with Ingersoll Houses is working toward a more broadly defined sanctuary city by addressing public housing residents' sense of ownership and control over their public spaces. Through design interventions, amenities, and programming, Ingersoll residents would have the tools to better address neighborhood change, as well as strengthen their communities.

February 24th, 2017 | CITIES RESIST
The theme for the first lecture was what are the role of cities and what can cities do in resisting and attacking the “nationalistic, faux populist, and inconsistent” Trump administration. What is the administration’s impact on cities? How will its policies affect urban areas?

Congressman Jerrold Nadler explained how the Trump administration is fascist. Trump delegitimizes and undermines the courts and the press so that he is the only one to be believed. Trump yields to a fascist approach where “he” is the solution and blames “them” for the problems of the country. Denouncing the press and calling it them the “enemy of the people” comes from Stalinist Russia.

His campaign saw the rise of anti-semitism and widespread raids on immigrants, with loose definitions of who is a threat to safety, not addressing the many incidents of terrorist acts committed by white supremacists

What is the administration’s impact on cities? Trump intends to make major cuts to agencies such as Housing and Urban Development, where NYCHA has a $17 billion capital needs backlog. Entities such as NYCHA will be starved for money. The panel explained how New York can be a model for what good governance looks likes, and anticipate policy. For example, Kizzy Charles-Guzman, Deputy Director at NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, layed out New York’s Sustainability Agenda’s role in the resistance movement. The Sustainability Agenda is developing networks, launching programs, and regulating New York in terms of building retrofits and solar goals to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. These actions and conversations around sustainability will help to counter any federal policies.

Edward Ott, Executive Director of the New York City Central Larbor Council, explained that we can easily fight the things the administration does, but we have to be careful and watch out for the things they don’t do, and the laws they choose not to emphasize.

As a woman and planner-to be of color, Executive Director of Community Voices HeardAfua Atta-Mensah’s message especially spoke to me. We need to have an intersectional approach to sanctuary cities. How can we be a sanctuary city if we don’t end broken windows policing, stop and frisk, school segregation, and close Rikers? Finally, there needs to be more women of color in planning and in the mayor’s office to helps push an intersectional resistance agenda.

What can cities do? The panelists came up with the following list of actions:
-Don’t feel sorry for the people who feel that they have been left out, but welcome the newly “woke” folks.
-Personally sustain yourself. Don’t walk away from the things that get you through the week. -Develop a common urban agenda.
-Develop a network of contacts.
-Be intersectional in your resistance; have a racial and social lense.
-Activate other cities.
-Defend vulnerable populations and minimize causalties.
-Don’t depend on impeachment to get out of this mess; participate in and win [mid-term] elections. -Don’t leave out small towns and cities. Cities such as New York City can model good government and provide incubation spaces for other cities. -Fight to protect the people who need protection the most. For example, there is no commitment in this country to build public housing -Support local government. Organize at the local level. Attend community board meetings.