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LIVE from the NYPL: Eminent Domain: The American Dream on Sale

June 18, 2008

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"Few of us emerged from the twentieth century with a strong, sustaining neighborhood to call home. We are sprawled away from one another, or packed into poverty. These two ends must be brought closer toward a middle of vital, dense, playful neighborhoods that nourish our souls and our communities."

---Mindy Fullilove


What is the American Dream? Does it mean having a 'better life' by creating a home and a community, living together for generations, building and tending relationships to one another and to a place? Or do we create a "better life" by moving up, moving out, removing the old, replacing with the new

Between 1949 and 1973 urban renewal, a program of the U.S. government, bulldozed 2,500 neighborhoods in 993 American cities and dispossessed one million people. Roots got cut, neighbors and families became separated, languages and cultures were destroyed, and social bonds were broken.

The current exhibition at The New York Public Library, Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City through August 29, features the work of five contemporary New York?based photographers 'Thomas Holton, Bettina Johae, Reiner Leist, Zoe Leonard, and Ethan Levitas' whose works intersect and resonate with current concerns about the reorganization of urban space, and its public use, in New York City. Artist Glenn Ligon offers the literal narrative of his own housing in the city. In addition to proposed regulations that threaten First Amendment rights to photograph in public places thus becoming a form of privatization of public space, questions also arise with the current private/public arrangements that characterize much of modern urban development, particularly the legal power of eminent domain, or the taking of private property for public use.

Marshall Berman, Professor of Political Science, City College and the Graduate Center; Mindy Fullilove, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Public Health at Columbia University; Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Affairs & Planning at Hunter College; and Brian Berger, photographer/blogger, will discuss the use of eminent domain and how urban renewal is changing the cityscape of New York City. Filmmaker Michael Galinsky will moderate.

The Atlantic Yards, a hotly contested developer driven project in Brooklyn, will serve as a focus through which the evening will begin. A short trailer from the film Battle of Brooklyn, directed by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, will portray the arguments of some of the main players in this current eminent domain debate.

After a summary of how the use of eminent domain is shaping our City, an open discussion with the audience will address what all of this means for the future of NYC.

About Tom Angotti

Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, CUNY, and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development. He is the Land Use columnist for and edits Progressive Planning Magazine. He is the author of Metropolis 2000 and Housing in Italy and founding member of the Task Force on Community-Based Planning in New York City. His book, New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, will be published in October 2008.



About Brian Berger

Historian, journalist and photographer Brian Berger is the co-editor of New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg. He writes about literature, film, and music for Stop Smiling magazine and also publishes the all-city blog, He divides his time between South Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach, Queens.





About Marshall Berman

Marshall Berman is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at City College of New York and CCNY Graduate Center, where he teaches political theory and urban studies. His books include On The Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square and All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. He is co-editor of New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg.





About Mindy Fullilove

Mindy Fullilove is a research psychiatrist at New York State Psychiatric Institute and a professor of clinical psychiatry and public health at Columbia University. She has studied the long-term consequences of urban renewal for African American people and co-founded NYC RECOVERS for the social and emotional recovery of NYC after 9/11. She is the author of Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It.




About Michael Galinsky

Michael Galinsky is a filmmaker based in Brooklyn. Currently he and his partners Suki Hawley and David Beilinson are working on several Brooklyn-based projects that track issues related to development. For four and a half years they have been following the saga of the Atlantic Yards development. Most recently they worked on a film about Arthur Wood's efforts to save his landmark artistic statement, The Broken Angel, from destruction. Previous films are Horn and Halos and Code 33.