Table of Contents

Introduction. After the Urban Crisis: New York and the Rise of Inequality
By Themis Chronopoulos and Jonathan Soffer

“I am Not Co-Op!” The Struggle over Middle-Class Housing in 1970s New York
By Benjamin Holtzman

In 1970s New York, some landlords and major real estate associations argued that New York could stem the exodus of middle-income residents by creating greater opportunities for homeownership in a city that had long been dominated overwhelmingly by renters. They proposed converting middle-income rental housing into cooperatives, a process that would also enable former landlords to profit handsomely. Tenants, however, widely rejected apartment ownership, preferring the security of rent-regulated housing. This article traces the ensuing struggles between tenants, the real estate industry, and city officials over the nature of moderate and middle-income housing in New York. The eventual success of the real estate industry enabled cooperative conversions to expand dramatically in the 1980s, but only by bargaining with tenants and activists, offering tenants non-eviction plans, and heavily discounted insider prices. This process helped to transform the city by underwriting a momentous turnaround in the real estate market, while signaling a larger embrace of market deregulation.

“A Shelter Can Tip the Scales Sometimes”: Disinvestment, Gentrification, and the Neighborhood Politics of Homelessness in 1980s New York City
By Ariel Eisenberg

In the 1980s, visible homelessness became one of the most pressing problems in New York City. While most New Yorkers expressed sympathy for the homeless, many of them also resisted efforts to site shelters and service facilities in their neighborhoods. But far from being simply a case of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) sentiment, protests over the placement of these facilities arose in the context of decades-long neighborhood movements against urban disinvestment, and the beginning of gentrification in some New York City neighborhoods. I argue that understanding this history is crucial to parsing the complex politics of anti-homeless facility protests in the 1980s, and to understanding the rise of “quality of life” policies that would govern many neoliberal urban spaces by the 1990s.

The Guardian Angels: Law and Order and Citizen Policing in New York City
By Reiko Hillyer

This article explores the rise of the Guardian Angels, a community patrol organization founded in 1979 in New York City by Curtis Sliwa and composed mainly of black and Latino youths. The group emerged in an era of economic restructuring coupled with a rising fear of crime. The Guardian Angels merit attention because of their peculiar relationship to the rise of law and order politics. They demonstrate that the fear of crime was neither the monopoly of the white middle class nor merely a construction of politicians. Black and Latino Guardian Angels were agents of community crime control who drew on existing customs of self-determination and distrust of the police. Ultimately, however, the activities and the rhetoric of the Guardian Angels contributed to the rise of a conservative discourse that justified the strengthening of the police state, anxiety about crime, and the gentrification of neighborhoods.

The Rebuilding of the South Bronx after the Fiscal Crisis
By Themis Chronopoulos

This article explores the rebuilding of the South Bronx from 1977 to 2013. This rebuilding represents an important public policy accomplishment, since the South Bronx was one of the most physically devastated areas in the United States. In terms of economic policy, the rebuilding of the South Bronx defies linear narratives. On the one hand, public-private partnerships, which represent some of the most important features of urban neoliberalism were used heavily in the revitalization of the South Bronx. Community organizations that had been rebuilding areas in the South Bronx in the 1970s and the 1980s were required to conform to the requirements of the market, if they were to continue participating in urban development. On the other hand, the building of housing for low- and moderate-income people is not exactly a neoliberal economic policy, since these housing units were built with public subsidies and regulated by government agencies. In its insistence to rebuild the South Bronx as well as other physically devastated areas, the city government of New York became involved in creative financing by incorporating non-government organizations that were ran by accomplished businesspeople but remained non-profit. And whatever the original intentions of city administrations in building and preserving affordable housing in the South Bronx may have been, the accommodation of so many low income people performing low-paying but essential jobs, has contributed to the making of a more vibrant urban economy, even if these same people are not necessarily the ones benefitting from New York’s economic dynamism. More information about this article is available here.