Tag Archives: New York City

Tactics Are Working in Police Protests

"die-in"at a Missouri mall

“die-in”at a Missouri mall

New Orleans     Weeks and months are now passing by since the grand jury failed to indict in Ferguson, Missouri and the drumbeat of cities with police forces similarly culpable continued to pile on top of one another in a sick body count. Importantly, the protests also continue in no small way because organizers have found important tactical responses and symbols that using excellent organizing are imminently replicable throughout the United States and the world. The combination of such clarity and replicability has kept the anger in check, the dialogue intense, and the protests alive.

The New York message blazoned even on NBA players t-shirts, including those of megastar Lebron James, saying “I Can’t Breathe!” have huge power to communicate.  NFL and college football players that have run into the end zone and then held their hands up high in a memorial that has also been effective.

Nothing though has been more powerful or dramatic than the “lie-ins” where protestors have laid silently and “dead” in protests of these killings. Interestingly, this has been a tactic that works with small numbers. Certainly some of these die-ins have involved hundreds, but for the most part many are very dignified and effective protests in unlikely venues with numbers more often in the tens and twenties. The surprise that is confounding the press and attracting them like candy is that some of these protestors break the usual stereotypes and press pigeonholes because they are “suits,” lawyers and law students, doctors and med students, and people simply moved to act.

Until the recent crazed killing of two innocent policeman in New York City, the right had no response and were forced to focus on race and the law, appropriately. Now some of the Fox News types are trying to see if they can shift the blame from justice to provocation on the part of protestors and politicians like the progressive Mayor de Blasio of New York City who has argued for more accountability. More soberly I listened to a caller on Travis Smiley early in the morning saying he feared for his son of similar age and what might happen when they were now conditioned to fear those that they should see as protectors.

Disturbingly, the caller also felt the police over reaction dated to Obama’s election as President. There is conversation and a culture shift that has to happen in the United States about race now. The back patting of the elites on Obama’s election continues to mask deep issues that must be resolved.

The New York Times in a recent study found that reporting to the FBI on killings by police annually was wildly inaccurate and left unreported more than 500 such killings nationally by their count. Many no doubt were in the line of duty, but part of the problem is that the definition of duty and the training to fulfill those responsibilities is clearly out of whack. The notion of “appropriate” response seems missing, and the proportionality that the “broken windows,” “no crime is too small” strategy calls for between incident and reaction is more broken than any windows. There is no rationale for a death sentence for selling a “loosie” cigarette on the street for goodness sake. The small Covington, Louisiana police force in a suburb of New Orleans hit the streets in the holiday season to play “secret” Santa and give out $100 bills to random, passing motorists. It’s not a solution, but at least it’s an idea.

We need a lot more. The tactics are good, so the protests might continue long enough to force some real discussion, and maybe some realization that change has to finally come around police methods and tactics as they look at all who are different as “invisible assailants,” and even more importantly about race and what we all need to do to close the divide.


New York’s “Poor Door” Could Lead to Mumbai’s Slum Sister Developments


Dallas   So-called voluntary inclusionary zoning in New York City allowing private developers to add more density and receive tax breaks in exchange for constructing a certain number of affordable housing units has led to controversy, as the city tries to make the program mandatory for new developments and as developers exploit loopholes that allow segregation of the affordable units from the luxury spaces. Separate entrances around the block or down the street have led to talk of a “poor door” increasing discrimination and inequality for those with lower income as the city continues to evolve as the playground and precinct of the rich.

To be clear the affordable units are income based at around $50,000, so this is a long way from section 8 or public housing. Advocates of affordable housing are disagreeing about the impact of the income segregation. Some are of the “any port in a storm” school and ready to accept anything the developers want to do, as long as they build some affordable units in a city desperate for such housing. Others, including thankfully the Mayor’s office, are clear that they will close the loopholes in the original ordinances that allowed for such segregation.

For my part I can’t get my mind out of Mumbai as I hear and read about this issue. In Mumbai the Bombay Municipal Corporation for a number of years has had a housing scheme that couples slum clearance with affordable replacement housing and usually luxury condos and apartments constructed by private developers, so it is possible to imagine how unit and income segregation can, and perhaps will, evolve. Real estate in Mumbai, like New York City and many other cities, is at a premium especially closer to the central districts. A private developer can win permission to build in areas where there are slums if they are willing to clear the slums and construct replacement housing at 200 meters of so for the existing residents. The rest of the footprint allows for construction of high rise luxury housing, literally side by side or across the street from each other.

It is amazing though to visit some of these developments even two or three years after they are constructed. Physically the contrast is immediate in Mumbai. One is a soaring tower of marble and glass and the other will be five or ten stories of box-like construction already discoloring and deteriorating. Visiting families inside means a 10-story walk-up. The elevators, once broken are unrepaired and frequently become garbage receptacles. Where in one area the grounds and entryways are immaculate in the other there is no plan for maintenance and upkeep. The materials and construction are shoddy and substandard. The letter of the housing scheme is followed but not the spirit. In Mumbai it is easy to see what the BMC was trying to do in killing two birds with one stone and a private developers’ money, but it also easy to see what happens once the developer washes his hands, collects his money, and is gone as well.

In New York the allowance seems to be that the affordable units can also be in “the same community,” meaning at a distance from the higher rent district. Clearly, building codes have to be met, which is also technically the case in Mumbai, but there’s no evidence that cheaper materials and construction would not be permissible. The whole business model for private development is for the developer to cash out and get out as quickly as financially feasible. It is unclear in New York how long term maintenance might be handled, especially in the segregated, affordable units.

As a matter of not only public policy, but logic, the more integrated the affordable housing is with the rest of the units, the greater the likelihood that the social benefits will inure to all residents and that the collective good of the common housing will be protected and maintained. We may need affordable housing at any price and at any place possible, but without full integration of the units, the future will look like Mumbai with gated highrises permanently attached to sister slums, rebuilt vertically, rather than horizontally.

This is not about pool and gym privileges. This is about the need to build an integrated, equitable community with public dollars and incentives, and the chances of achieving these goals for everyone is through the same door and sharing the same spaces, not separation and segregation.