New York & Urbanism
In the '90s Mayor Rudy Giuliani Disneyfied Times Square in the name of "public safety." Gone were the peep shows, porn theaters, and dive bars, and before you say 'good riddance,' like so many others, this sexual underground was one of the few refuges for men (gay, Black, and Brown men in particular) from all classes to love and be loved, away from the alienating ravages of late capitalism. A Valentine to a bygone era, written with so much affection and insight that Delany gives us two incredible essays for the price of one.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City (Paperback)
Baseball might not be your thing, but the internal animosity tearing apart the 1977 Yankees before sending them to the World Series victory is a drama of Shakespearean intensity. Add to that the mid-July blackout and the atavistic battles that ensued, the burning of Bushwick, and a mayoral election for which 'Machiavellian' is hardly an exaggeration, and you've got a thorough chronicle of an implausibly wild year in the city's history, told with enough affection and misplaced nostalgia to make you wish you'd been there yourself, bat in hand, on the field or off.
I like my New York imagined, beautiful (ugly), and filled with incricate spaces deep within "seven levels" of city consciousness. An unending and constantly (re)imagined city. As it should be.
A recent history and ethnography of Morgantown, the post-industrial swath of Bushwick home to Roberta's, the McKibbin Lofts, etc. Wasielewski focuses on artists and "makers" role in the area, channeling Sharon Zukin & Martha Rossler (& anticipating Oli Mould). Made in Brooklyn indicts the Maker Movement and its techno-utopian models of community building, highlighting the urgent necessity to reclaim art from entrepreneurial purveyors of the "creative class".
Tenant organizing and planning student Samuel Stein breaks down the mechanics of "the Real Estate State". Housing organizers from around NYC pepper this thorough and deeply thoughtful diagnosis of our city's state-sanctioned ills. Stein connects the dots between many of the machine's moving parts--planners, politicians, developers, gentrifiers, and those gentrified out, straddling his institutional training and his grassroots experience. Two more things that make this slim, sweeping book noteworthy: 1) A chapter dedicated to the Trump family's rise to power through the prism of development, a chronicle of greed, fraud, and dispossession, and 2) A chapter of solutions and how to move forward.
An important read for everyone but a must for NYC. Callous Objects brings attention to the everyday objects and designs around us that have crucially created limitations against the unhoused. The inhumane tactics that multiple ‘actors’ have imposed on what is supposed to seem beneficial for everyday use, have underlying tones that need awareness. And what is technology’s role in all of this? If you find yourself with any opinion on the advancement that we have created with said technology, this book creates a philosophical language and a means to articulate what is just.
"Gentrification" has become a word as dirty and shapeless as "hipster." In this work, Peter Moskowitz gives gentrification clarity and meaning without narrowing its scope. No book on the topic by a single author pulls fewer punches, is more accessible, theoretically comprehensive, or up-to-date than this one. It covers lots of ground (New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York) without becoming a tedium of census numbers and real estate jargon. Moskowitz is a native New Yorker, and like many who grew up here, is both gentrified and gentrifier. He writes for a broad audience, filling in blanks for the uninitiated, and critiquing the conventional wisdom of planning departments nationwide. The facts are at times grim, but the conclusion is one that is hopeful, important, true, and rarely explicitly stated in the field—that gentrification is NOT inevitable!
This history of American suburbia explores every possible angle of development, tracing customs, laws and aesthetics back to their origins in the industrial revolution, Medieval Europe and beyond. Supported by statistics, philosophical criticism, and a fascinating, detailed history of American urban development (you will look at New York differently), what emerges is a thorough portrait of how the American urban and suburban spaces we take for granted came to be. A quiet classic in the field and a must-read for understanding urbanism in America today.
What would New York City be like if Robert Moses hadn't been in a position to decide its infrastructural fate for four decades? Huge swaths of East Tremont and Sunset Park might never have been razed to the ground, for example, but we also wouldn't have the Unisphere or Lincoln Center. Caro's biography is both ambivalent and grandiose, comparing its subject to figures ranging from Hitler to Napoleon, his achievements to the pyramids and the Roman aqueducts. The Power Broker outdoes House of Cards with its Machiavellian machinations and Scorsese's best rise-and-fall epics with its Shakespearean gravitas.
Manaugh's hypothesis is that burglars are the ultimate architecturecritics, heists their preferred medium. LAPD's airborne division, a retired Jersey cop-turned-lock picking-instructor, and a top-notch LasVegas casino security specialist guide us through our collective fascination with the unauthorized use of urban space, as do movies like Rififi, Thief, Ocean's Eleven, The Bourne Identity, and Die Hard ("architectural moviemaking at its best"). Conclusion: burglars may be rascals, but who can honestly claim not to admire them?
My youthful romance with the Harlem Renaissance awakens from a slumber with this wistful compendium of ephemera, collaborative documentation, and assemblage. Stories and souls lie here.
Zukin's prescient classic describes how the state and big real estate realized the power of ART in manipulating the housing market. Zukin's triangulations of formal and informal structures of power are confident and detailed, regardless of whether she's dissecting art patronage or the city's tax code. Her diagnosis is so ahead of its time, it could've used the tired buzzword "collusion" to describe the state's deliberate partnership with development to destroy industrialization and open up the city to development--a move that was aided by herding an entire artist identity into social complacency, real estate marketing, and fealty to the state. Learn about how the urban development model we see all over the world now was incubated in this very neighborhood of SoHo, and how the model came to be designed (hint: it isn't broken, but working exactly as it was intended to).
The path out of every housing crisis has been a return to a notion of the home as a space of function, not of value. More plainly spoken, a pushback against the notion of housing as a source of capital, favoring an understanding of housing as a human right. This book succinctly explores this idea, situated in the context of New York City. As relevant as ever.
Jacob's love for the city is so deep as to be religious, and her knowledge of it is the accumulated musings of a lifelong urban monk. Nevermind that a major highway would be tearing through Little Italy a block away if it weren't for her. If you've ever lived in an American city (but especially New York), this book will peel back a layer of mystery you didn't even realize existed, and reveal both the elegant blueprint and the shimmering soul you've always sensed were there. One of the most profoundly impactful books on my life, and an iconic work that goes beyond being a high-water mark for its genre.