Category Archives: Urban Studies

Cities Are Embracing the Worst Idea to Come Out of Ferguson

This article was originally posted in Quartz.

By Basil Smikle Jr.

Earlier this week, Missouri governor Jay Nixon ended the curfew imposed on the community of Ferguson over the weekend. Residents had been required to be indoors between midnight and 5 am.

It’s not surprising but it’s one of many moves authorities got wrong in their reaction to riots over the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The toxicity of curfews in the St. Louis suburb sparked additional and perhaps retaliatory unrest. The governor’s decision to restrict the movement of Ferguson’s mostly black population exacerbated long-simmering anger toward law enforcement, roiled community leaders, and extended confrontations with residents. Establishing this curfew was only one of many missteps by a clearly overwhelmed police department.

And yet, alarmingly, the tactic itself is gaining acceptance in major American cities.
Continue reading Cities Are Embracing the Worst Idea to Come Out of Ferguson

Developers and Labor Face Off at City Planning Commission Hearing

Labor and the city came together yesterday when the Astoria Cove development came up for public hearing at the NYC Department of City Council as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP). For those unfamiliar with the proposed development, Astoria Cove is Alma Realty’s 30-years-in-the-making development, with plans to build five mixed-use buildings in Hallets Point for a total of approximately 1,700 apartments, along with a bevy of retail stores — and it hasn’t been finding many allies.
Continue reading Developers and Labor Face Off at City Planning Commission Hearing

Pushing Through Doors: Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”

By Zenzile Greene

On the heels of the Spike Lee Retrospective being shown at BAM Cinematek through July 11th, I would like to present a piece I wrote up on assignment for my “Culture Through Film” class taken this past fall at the School of Professional studies. The course, taught by Professor Kelley Kawano, was developed brilliantly not only for the purpose of traditional Film History survey, but also towards the goal of turning a critical lens on the pervasive and myriad ways in which culture influences film and vice versa.

Over the course of the fall semester, we viewed and deconstructed a range of films from the Silent Era to the Hollywood Studio Era, to the groundbreaking independent films made by such pioneers as Irving Penn and Spike Lee. For several of our weekly assignments, we were asked to take one scene from a movie and analyze its use of one in a list of primary technical film elements, including editing, sound effects and direction.

For inspiration, I drew on the use of symbolism in Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” from a paper I wrote in the class “Mass Media in Black America” taught by Professor Arthur Lewin at Baruch in 2010. I was very excited to write up a brief analysis of the symbolic use of editing in one particular scene of this, one of my favorite films in Lee’s “Brooklyn Trilogy” series.
Continue reading Pushing Through Doors: Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”

Politics, Progressivism and the Future of the Democratic Party

By Basil Anthony Smikle Jr. 

Earlier this year, Gallup reported that a record number of Americans identify as Independents. Forty-two percent of the country shed traditional political party labels: Republican Party identification fell to 25% while 31% identified with Democrats – down from 36% in 2008 when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battled for the nomination. Attempts to recalibrate each national party’s internal political compass before 2016 will likely prove more vexing for Republicans, but recent activity among major Democratic figures signals a far more aggressive push for realignment than previously thought. A high-profile campaign 10 years ago and recent developments among education policy-leaders may foreshadow a dramatic shift in the Party’s forthcoming platform.

Howard Dean’s rapid ascension among Democratic presidential contenders in 2004 was fueled in part by an strong anti-war stance, a unabashed liberal ideology during the neo-conservative Bush-Cheney years, and a pre-Facebook internet strategy that was groundbreaking for its fundraising and community-building activities. Dean famously lost in Iowa and New Hampshire as voters chose John Kerry, who was presumed to be a better general election candidate. While Dean’s loss was not wholly unwelcomed by certain corners of the Democratic Party, his most ardent supporters were without a champion until early 2007, when President Obama kicked off his seemingly quixotic campaign for the White House.   Continue reading Politics, Progressivism and the Future of the Democratic Party

Observations on Cuba

By Marisa Butler

In March, I traveled to Cuba with my family. We were able to go legally on a People to People license issued by the US government. Limited, legal travel is one of the ways the Obama administration has been easing restrictions between the two nations. As a requirement of our visa, we were mandated to adhere to a strict schedule of tours and programs that served as a cultural exchange, rather than a traditional vacation.

I want to give context to our trip and acknowledge my role as an outsider who was traveling within the bounds of a US-granted license and a tour run by the Cuban government. Despite these details, I learned an incredible amount that I feel has been mostly absent throughout my educational career in the United States. It was an incredible opportunity to view this experience through the lens of the Urban Studies program. Continue reading Observations on Cuba

The World Cup: Panem et Circenses et Transit (Killjoy Alert!)

Kafui Attoh is an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute.

The World Cup is upon us! All praise be to FIFA! In less than a week, millions of people worldwide will tune into what promises to be the largest global bread and circus event of the year. Indeed, an estimated half a million fans will descend on Brazil itself — no doubt, to partake in the spectacle first hand. As is now common with these mega events, the World Cup boasts its own theme song — a predictably forgettable anthem by J-Lo and Pitbull called “We Are One (Ole Ola).” It will also have its own cuddly mascot — Fuleco, an anime-inspired “three-banded Armadillo.” Reportedly, Fuleco is modeled on an endangered species native to Brazil.

With all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster, the World Cup is a big deal. For the host nation, the finances alone are absurd. Since “winning” the right to host the tournament seven years ago, Brazil has spent $11.3 billion on Cup related infrastructure projects. Many of these projects — despite the desperate need for hospitals and better transit — have been limited to new arenas and new stadiums. An additional $800 million has been spent on security alone as roughly 170,000 security personnel have been dispatched across the country to regulate crowds and secure arenas. “Ordem without Progresso,” as Brazilians might say.

Continue reading The World Cup: Panem et Circenses et Transit (Killjoy Alert!)