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Critics: NYC Zoning Promotes Segregation, Inequality

The editors of a new book on displacement in New York argue that the city's historical record of exclusionary zoning carries over into the present. Urbanist concepts in vogue today simply rehash old divides.
February 8, 2017, 9am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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"If were going to be a sanctuary city—that has to include being a place where people can afford to live." So argues Sylvia Morse, a NYC housing advocate and co-editor of Zoned Out! alongside planning professor Tom Angotti. In an interview, the two draw harsh conclusions about the city's housing and zoning policy.

Their argument: modern forms of inequality have systemic roots and need to be dealt with as such. "Zoning is a systemic policy to protect neighborhoods that are predominantly white and homeowner neighborhoods—the whiteness is more important than home ownership, actually. [...] If policies are not explicitly anti-racist, then they are perpetuating racism."

Moore and Angotti argue that many of today's urbanist buzzwords like "underutilized" land, transit-oriented development, mixed-use, and even "density" can mask profit- or even race-related displacement. Lacking a comprehensive plan, NYC's zoning remains a hyper-local affair, perpetuating these problems.

Says Morse, "We see a lot of that happening now, where if people are living in poverty, and if those people are people of color, their neighborhoods are immediately labeled as needing a certain kind of investment. Rather than that investment in social programs, that investment comes in the form of subsidies for developers that are going to make a ton of private profit."

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Published on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 in CityLab
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