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Spatial Regulation in New York City: From Urban Renewal to Zero Tolerance
Swansea University Author: Themis Chronopoulos
This book demonstrates how spatial regulation became one of the most important ways to reverse the decline of New York City in the post–World War II period. As New York began to lose its status as a leading global city, the perception of urban disorder, whether that disorder was physical (e.g., slum...
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This book demonstrates how spatial regulation became one of the most important ways to reverse the decline of New York City in the post–World War II period. As New York began to lose its status as a leading global city, the perception of urban disorder, whether that disorder was physical (e.g., slums, shabby streets, crumbling infrastructure) or social (e.g., homeless people, hustlers, rowdy teenagers), represented a threat to the middle class and investors and thus to the financial and political viability of the city government. Consequently, mayors and other elected and nonelected leaders mounted initiatives such as urban renewal, exclusionary zoning, antivagrancy laws, and order-maintenance policing to control, if not erase, disorder. These initiatives were part of a class project that deflected attention from the underlying causes of poverty, eroded civil rights, and sought to enable real estate investment, high-end consumption, mainstream tourism, and corporate success. The various strategies of spatial ordering that were employed corresponded to shifts in political ideology. Liberals who dominated New York City politics between the 1940s and the early 1970s emphasized physical solutions against disorder such as urban renewal and the elimination of slums. However, as urban renewal became discredited and crime increased dramatically, neoconservatives denounced postwar liberalism as the source of the city’s decline. After the fiscal crisis of 1975, brands of neoliberalism and neoconservatism merged and articulated a new vision of spatial regulation based on aggressive policing. Instead of redeveloping low-income African American and Latino neighborhoods, the authorities targeted people who committed minor infractions in public space. By the 1990s, these efforts to regulate urban space were promoted under the banners of “broken windows” and “zero-tolerance policing.”
College of Arts and Humanities