Progressive Planning Today
This year's Planners Network conference comes at a decisive political moment: a time of mass displacement as well as place-based struggles; a time of climate peril and growing awareness of environmental precarity; and a time of rightward drifts and left-wing possibilities. This heightened context makes the dire need for progressive planning ever more clear. The meaning of progressive planning, however, remains elusive, and raises a trio of important questions for practitioners, activists, and theorists. First, there is the land question: in a context of largely private land ownership and at a time of unprecedented investment in urban real estate, who benefits from the social value planners add to space? Second, there is the power question: who ultimately makes progressive planning possible? Finally there is the definitional question: who is supposed to be progressing, and what are they progressing toward? Exploring these questions allows us to develop greater clarity over the meaning, merits and limitations of our progressive planning models.
Samuel Stein is a PhD candidate in geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and an urban studies instructor at Hunter College. He is the author of Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State (Verso 2019), a book that investigates what he calls “the rise of the real estate state,” or the increasingly powerful faction of government that seeks to bend public policy toward ever-rising property values. His academic writing on planning and gentrification has appeared in The Journal of Urban Affairs, International Planning Studies, Metropolitics, and New Labor Forum (forthcoming), and has been featured in various edited volumes, including Zoned Out! and Asian American Matters, and the soon-to-be released Immigrant Crossroads and Political Landscapes in the Age of Donald Trump. His popular writing on New York City planning politics has been published in such venues as the the Guardian, Jacobin, The Village Voice (RIP), City Limits, Gotham Gazette, New Politics, Progressive City, Progressive Planning, Urban Omnibus, and more.
In addition to studying, teaching and writing about planning and urban geography, he worked as a researcher, organizer, and planner on numerous New York City union campaigns, tenant mobilizations, and public policy initiatives. He is a participant in various tenant and community groups fighting gentrification and displacement in New York City, and beyond.