Community-Controlled Public Spacce
Organized and Led by Picture the Homeless
1pm, East Harlem
In New York City and other global mega-cities, fluctuations in the value of urban land serve as a primary driver of the speculation on and commodification of housing, in turn fueling an epidemic of gentrification and homelessness. In response, activists have turned to land-based interventions such as Community Land Trusts (CLTs), an ownership structure for residential and commercial buildings that attempts to remove land from the market to allow low-income neighborhoods to protect their housing stock and create real affordability. In this workshop, we ask: Can such a model of community ownership apply to public space itself, given its role as a major site of exclusion for homeless and other marginalized people? In this interactive workshop, we will apply our experience in multiple contexts to collectively explore two interconnected lines of thought: how urban planning has increasingly utilized technology, green infrastructure, and economic incentives to increase land value in urban public spaces, and how a model of community-controlled public space might resist both the commodification of public space and the contestation of homeless peoples' right to exist that currently defines it. This will be an interactive workshop, through which participants will contribute their own ideas and experiences, leading us to a collective output that we hope to bring forward into all of our ongoing work together.
Eric Goldfischer is a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Minnesota, and has worked with Picture the Homeless for over four years as a scholar-activist. His research focuses on the relationship between urban environmental development processes and the changing visibility of homelessness in NYC. Prior to entering academia, Eric worked as a housing organizer in the South Bronx.
Scott Larson is Co-Director of the Office of Community Studies and the Service Learning program in the Urban Studies Department at Queens College. His research focuses on urban space and social justice, and his current work explores community land trusts (CLTs) as a mechanism for reorienting political and economic agency at the community level. He is the author of Building Like Moses With Jacobs in Mind: Contemporary Planning in New York City, which examines the redevelopment strategies of the administration of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Charmel Lucas is a member and leader at Picture the Homeless since 2015. She was born in East Harlem and is a mother of five. After six months of homelessness in Florida she moved back to New York City, where she became homeless again due to Hurricane Sandy. She helped organize hurricane victims to fight for their rights with the Red Cross and the Mayor’s Office, demanding longer stays in hotels. Now she is dealing with the shelter system and the headaches of being shuffled around between couple shelters.
Marcus Moore is a longtime leader of Picture the Homeless. A native of Brooklyn and Bergen County, NJ, Marcus first became homeless when he couldn't pay rent in the city, even with a full time job and a side gig doing legal support work. In the shelter, he found out about PTH and since then has been involved in both civil rights and housing campaigns. PTH has sent him to radio journalism school, helped him hold Know Your Rights trainings, and given him the tools to help people understand what's going on in their lives.
Nikita Price is the Civil Rights organizer at Picture the Homeless. In this role, he focuses on selective police enforcement and the Broken Windows Theory as it applies to the Homeless and the poor in New York. With PTH since 2006, Nikita also has extensive experience in social work and advocacy.
Rob Robinson is a co-founder and member of the Leadership Committee of the Take Back the Land Movement and a staff volunteer at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). After losing his job in 2001, he spent two years homeless on the streets of Miami and ten months in a New York City shelter. Since 2007 Rob has been a homeless/housing activist working with organizations in across the US and around the world.