Category Archives: Urban Studies

The growing disjunction in education policy

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

By Basil Smikle Jr.

A flurry of activity among education reformers across the country exposes a growing bifurcation within its ranks, uncovered by recent challenges to teacher tenure in New York. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Justice, which recently recruited renowned attorneys David Boies and Laurence Tribe, seeks to reform teacher tenure laws, mirroring activities that led to California’s controversial Vergara ruling. But earlier this month, the New York City Parents Union filed suit separately alleging that Brown’s group failed to include scores of minority parents in their complaint. This troubling yet pervasive tableau has bedeviled modern reform movements since their inception: Leadership has remained predominantly white, even though the target populations are overwhelmingly black and Latino. And these battles are contributing to a growing disjunction in education policy and among stakeholders within communities and across cities.  Continue reading The growing disjunction in education policy

Hillary Clinton’s commitment to civil rights

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

By Basil Smikle Jr.

On a subfreezing morning in January 2003, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) walked to the pulpit of Trinity Baptist Church’s Martin Luther King Day celebration in the Bronx to make a startlingly rousing speech to their predominantly African-American congregation. Typically, such speeches are principally aspirational — they acknowledge that society has largely rebuked racial discrimination’s ugly past but urge steadfastness in tackling challenges that lay ahead. But it was Clinton’s stirring repudiation of Trent Lott, then the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Mississippi who a month earlier praised Strom Thurman’s 1948 pro-segregation presidential campaign, that enthused the audience. Her remarks suggested changes in leadership alone will not eradicate racism and discrimination but the rigidity of the pathways to political and economic enfranchisement must acquiesce to the strength inherent in this country’s diversity. Continue reading Hillary Clinton’s commitment to civil rights

New Report Shows Connection Between Sea Level Rise, Affordable Housing

This weekend, over 300,000 people took to the streets to demand action on climate change. Many of the protesters took pains to demonstrate that climate change and global warming are not “just” environmental issues — they are closely connected to issues of labor, civil rights and housing, too.

In a report recently released by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, Murphy Institute instructor Samuel Stein connects the risk of rising sea levels to the question of affordable homeownership. New York City’s coastal areas are home to tens of thousands of single family homeowners, and a large portion of them are working and middle class. For decades, city planning decisions made the waterfront the site of not just public housing, but low-income home ownership opportunities. Today, both climate change and rising flood insurance costs threaten to displace these homeowners, and could compound the city’s affordable housing crisis.

In their report, “Rising Tides, Rising Costs: Flood Insurance and New York City’s Affordability Crisis,” Samuel Stein and Caroline Nagy explore this dilemma through quantitative research, historical narratives, homeowner and policy-maker interviews, informative graphics and more.

Photo by John De Guzman via flickr (CC-BY-ND).

Basil Smikle on MSNBC

Basil Smikle Jr. has been an Adjunct Professor at the Murphy Institute for over six years, teaching classes under the umbrella of Urban Studies in the Public Administration Certificate in Policy Analysis and Government, Politics and the Policy-Making Process.

This weekend, he appeared on MSNBC to discuss the Democratic party and the 2016 Presidential Election.

Check out Part I and Part II.

Teachout’s Teach Out

By Joshua Freeman

This election season has seen an unusually open battle regarding political strategy among New York unionists and progressives.  At stake is a crucial issue: how to balance the demands of building a movement that can fundamentally change a political and economic system that fails to serve most Americans against the existing political arrangements that benefit particular groups of workers. This was the key issue at the Working Families Party convention last May.

In 2010, the WFP backed Cuomo even as he attacked public sector unions and ran as a pro-business centrist. Once in office, he forced state workers to accept repugnant give-back contracts under the threat of mass layoffs, fought to lower taxes at the expense of services, and blocked various progressive initiatives.

This year, many WFP activists vowed not to go down the same road again. Continue reading Teachout’s Teach Out

Community Organizing with WE ACT

Last fall, the Murphy Institute launched a B.A. in Urban and Community Studies. The program focuses on public policy, the delivery of services, and improving the quality of life for communities and working-class populations. Students in the program use methods and perspectives from sociology, economics, political science, history, and anthropology to analyze the conditions of cities, neighborhoods, and communities within a globalizing economy and culture. Our students have opportunities for experiential and applied learning, including fieldwork and workplace-based projects in New York City — our classroom.

Etinosa Emokpae is one of our students and had a chance this summer to intern at a community-based organization in Harlem that engages residents to address environmental justice/public health issues and find solutions. In this piece, she shares some of her impressions.

I’d like to recount my amazing experience in the Urban Studies Fieldwork seminar, which was co-taught by Professors James Steele and Eve Baron. The seminar allows students to intern at a public agency or community organization that fits their interests. Continue reading Community Organizing with WE ACT