Remaking NYC Post-Covid-19

Summer 2020

WITH

John Clinton, Associate Professor, Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management

Mary Watson, Executive Dean, Schools of Public Engagement

In summer 2020, The New School offered a new, online course entitled "Remaking NYC Post-COVID.” More than two dozen faculty spanning an array of programs and fields of research and practice offered perspectives on how to shape a more just and equitable New York City as it emerges from its status as a global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lecturers explained how the pandemic has impacted life in New York City across a number of dimensions, from the economy, to the education system, the media, the arts industries, and the use of public spaces. Presentation topics included urban resilience and climate justice; reopening public schools; social movements in a virtual world; neighborhood disaster recovery; the continuing housing crisis; democratic and participatory urban space; financing equitable recovery; just and equitable workplaces in the art world, amongst others. 

 

The New School's Center for New York City Affairs has made available on this special website a selection of recordings of those Zoom presentations.

Mia White – Introductory Lecture: A Love Ethic in the Study
and Practice of the Spaces of NYC

 

In this opening lecture of the course, Mia White, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, encourages us to embrace an ethic of radical love in order to reimagine a New York that is more equitable and humane. She introduces students to the concept of a blues epistemology and the bent note to describe experimental and improvisational modes of thought and action that can create space for love and care in a city that is all too often repressive and alienating.

James Parrott - The New Strain of Inequality: The Economic Impact of COVID-19 in New York City

 

James Parrott, Director of Economic and Fiscal Policies at the Center for New York City Affairs, discusses the COVID pandemic's impact on the city's economy, and in particular the disproportionate negative impact it has had on the city's more vulnerable populations. He uses recent economic data to illustrate how the pandemic has exacerbated existing patterns of income inequality and racial division in New York. Parrott concludes his presentation with suggestions on policy tools that can be put into effect to offer some relief to struggling
New Yorkers.

 

Tom Liam Lynch - Learning Equitably, Digitally, and Well: NYC Schools
in the Wake of COVID-19

Tom Lynch, Editor in Chief of Inside Schools, discusses a research report conducted in the spring of 2020 on how NYC public schools responded to the outbreak of the COVID pandemic and converted to online classes. Based on interviews with teachers, parents, and administrators, the study showed that the quality of the remote teaching and learning experience varied widely from school to school and from household to household. Lynch makes some recommendations on how the public schools' COVID response can be improved with more centralized, uniform planning and more transparent and clearer communications.

 

Evren Uzer – Political Resistance During a Pandemic

Assistant Professor for Urban Planning Evren Uzer discusses how networks of activists have mobilized in response to the COVID pandemic, and have advocated for measures to protect poor and vulnerable communities on the front lines of the crisis. She explains that resistance to hegemonic power structures does not come only in the form of protest, but also in the form of mutual aid, community organizing, and advocacy for workers' and tenants' rights. Such grassroots activism lays the groundwork for establishing an infrastructure of resistance that can lead to a more just and equitable city in the future.

 

Carin Kuoni & Eriola Pira - Art and Politics: Striving for a Just and Equitable Art World

Carin Kuoni, Director of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and Eriola Pira, Curator at the Vera List Center, discuss how the Center and other arts organizations around the country have both been impacted by, and have responded, to the COVID pandemic. Many arts organizations have experienced a massive loss in revenue and workers in the arts industries have suffered from layoffs and furloughs. Kuoni and Pira discuss how artists and activists have responded by forming mutual aid groups, organizing emergency fundraisers, lobbying for increased stimulus funding, and advocating for worker's rights.

 

Neyda Martinez - Decade of Fire: The Decline and Revitalization of the South Bronx

Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Media Management Neyda Martinez discusses her documentary film Decade of Fire, which tells the story of arson and urban decay in the South Bronx in the 1970s, and frames the decline as a product of racism and failed government policies. The film recounts the efforts of local activists who chose to stay, fight and rebuild their neighborhoods, in the face of severe economic and political challenges. Martinez also discusses the production of the film, and the use of media as a tool for outreach, engagement, and resistance.

 

Ana Baptista - Advancing Environmental Justice in the Time of COVID-19

Professor Ana Baptista, Associate Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center, frames the COVID pandemic as an issue of environmental justice. She demonstrates that neighborhoods in New York City that have the worst public health outcomes due to poor social infrastructure and air pollution are also at the highest risk of COVID transmission and mortality. Professor Baptista goes on to discuss the efforts of activists and nonprofit organizations to demand policies to improve public health and social cohesion in New York's most vulnerable neighborhoods.

 

Timon McPhearson - Combined COVID-19 & Climate Risks in New York City

Timon McPhearson, Associate Professor of Urban Ecology and Director of the Urban Systems Lab, discusses how New York City neighborhoods that have been heavily impacted by the COVID pandemic also tend to be ones that are most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Both COVID and climate change have a disproportionately negative impact on lower income communities of color. Efforts to make these neighborhoods more resilient need to be comprehensive and address social inequalities that exacerbate both COVID and climate change vulnerabilities.

 

Dennis Derryck – A Racially Just Regenerative Food System Through a
Racial Lens

Professor emeritus Dennis Derryck discusses a growing activist movement to support black farmers and black owned agricultural businesses in New York State. Derryck describes a number of measures that his non-profit Corbin Hill Food Project, as well as other organizations such as the Black Farmer Fund, are taking to support black people entering the agricultural field and to ensure that black owned agricultural businesses can thrive. Such activism can help make black communities more resilient in times of crisis such as the COVID pandemic, by building wealth and promoting food sovereignty.

 

​Lei Ping – Xenophobia & Politics of Fear: Impact on Asian American Communities during COVID-19

Lei Ping, Assistant Porofessor of Chinese, discusses how Asian and Asian American communities have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how public dialogue and media representations about the virus have been tainted by racist and xenophic attitudes. She contextualizes today's politics of fear and distrust of Asians and Asian Americans in respect to the pandemic within the context of a deeper history of anti-Asian racism in the United States. Professor Ping offers us suggestions on how to combat such discrimination and harrassment and to imagine a better future.

 

Latha Poonamallee – Building Resilience Through Mindfulness Practice

Latha Poonamallee, Associate Professor of Management and Social Innovation, discusses mindfulness as an important, practical tool through which individuals and groups can become more resilient in the face of crises such as the COVID pandemic. The practice of mindfulness can help people break free from negative, self-defeating, and harmful thoughts and behaviors, and can cultivate positive attitudes such as compassion, gratitude, and altruism. These positive attitudes and behaviors can not only help individuals recover from crises, but also improve the resilience of entire communities.

 

Miodrag Mitrasinovic - Expanding Democratic and Participatory Urban Space in the Age of COVID

Professor of Architecture and Urbanism Miodrag Mitrasinovic compares and contrasts the Hudson Yards mega project in Manhattan with the redevelopment of Corona Plaza in Queens. Whereas the corporate interests that drove the top-down development of Hudson Yards created highly commodified, sanitized, and surveilled pseudo-public spaces, the grassroots community groups that led the redevelopment of Corona Plaza fashioned a more open, adaptable, and communitarian public plaza. During the COVID pandemic, parks and outdoor public spaces have become increasingly important resources for communities like Corona that have been hit hard by the virus.

 

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr – Economic Growth is not the Goal: People Centered Paradigms in Pandemic Recovery

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Professor of International Affairs, advocates for an approach to crisis recovery that is centered upon the comprehensive improvement of individual and social well being, rather than solely upon sheer economic growth. GDP growth alone does not equate to improvements in standard of living and positive health outcomes, and in fact is often associated with increasing inequality and limiting the life choices of many sectors of society. Fukuda-Parr suggests that pandemic recovery and resilience plans should put people first and distribute resources in equitable ways that are not driven primarily by profit.

 

Michael Cohen – COVID-19, Cities, and the Global Future

Michael Cohen, Director of the Doctoral Program in Public and Urban Policy, discusses how the COVID pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in how cities around the world have been run in recent decades, and has prompted urban leaders to question the conventional wisdom on what constitutes good urban governance. Examples of such trends now being questioned include an emphasis on physical rather than social infrastructure and the promotion of density as a way for cities to become more sustainable. Cohen concludes by stressing that global urban governance actors should place more value on local knowledge and develop creative solutions to problems that are tailored to the local context of individual cities.

 

Rachel Meltzer - Neighborhood Economic Resilience in the Face of
COVID-19: What Can we Learn from Natural Disasters?

Associate Professor of Public and Urban Policy Rachel Meltzer compares the impact of COVID on New York City to that of previous natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. Both Sandy and COVID had uneven, localized impacts that varied widely from neighborhood to neighborhood, and both posed the greatest economic threat to local, independent, retail establishments. Meltzer outlines some measures that government should continue to implement to assist the most highly impacted communities, from direct financial assistance, to regulatory changes such as mask mandates and the promotion of outdoor dining.

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©2020 Center for New York City Affairs at The New School

Co-led by the Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment