Category Archives: Urban Studies

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Urban Studies

Urban Studies offers undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs that examine the problems of city dwellers in poor, immigrant, and working-class communities and efforts to address those problems through policy innovations derived from sound research and sharpened through democratic participation. Learn more here.

Prof. Kafui Attoh on Structural Racism in Mass-Transit Policing

The protests over the past week and a half have laid bare many of the excesses of the police and called into increasing question what their role in our cities is and should be. In a recent Streetsblog post, SLU professor Kafui Attoh explained why the protests have in particular laid bare the structural racism in New York’s mass-transit policing.

Attoh reminds us that, before the pandemic, before the recent wave of mass protests, Gov. Cuomo and the MTA had decided to add hundreds of new transit police to the city’s subway system in order to combat fare evasion. The news was announced much to the dismay of activists, who noted that this would simply exacerbate existing inequalities and racial profiling — and would cost the city a fortune.

Now, here we are six months later, and, Attoh observes, one would think the conversation would have changed:

Today, the issues facing the MTA and New York City Transit appear more existential. After Cuomo’s March 20 “New York on PAUSE” declaration, daily transit ridership fell by 90 percent. By mid-April ridership on the subway had reached a historic low of 365,000 daily trips — down from 5.56 million trips a year before. Losses in fare revenue have been extensive. 

The MTA’s financial situation remains shaky despite the fact that the agency has received federal and state aid and new powers to borrow from its capital budget — and especially given the possibility of another outbreak. Beyond the hit to transit budgets, the human costs also have mounted. As of this week, more than 60 transit workers in the city — most of them bus drivers — have succumbed to COVID-19. Transit in the city is facing a new reality — one that has made a mockery of the old bugaboo of “fare evasion.”

And yet, the MTA intends to move forward with its pre-COVID plan:

In mid-April, Gothamist reported that, despite $8 billion in COVID related losses, the MTA still plans to plow ahead with its decision to hire 350 new MTA police officers. Having already hired 150 since January, the MTA will expand the force’s ranks by 150 in July and by another 200 in December.

As Attoh explains, this dynamic makes abundantly apparent what is motivating policymakers — and what we need instead:

The push for more MTA police — despite transit’s financial woes and the retreat of the issue of fare evasion — clarifies what was already clear to activists six months ago: The purpose of the policing fetish is simply the need to control the mobility of the economically and racially marginalized  — a population that will face the brunt of the coming austerity.

We must address these structural questions — and now, with hope, we will.

Read the full post at Streetsblog.

Photo by Runs With Scissors via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

Virtual Event: Fighting for CUNY/Rebuilding NYC (6/11)

Thursday, June 11 * 10 AM to 11:30 AM

PLEASE NOTE: The ZOOM link will be sent to registrants the day before the event.

REGISTER HERE

A Zoom forum on past, present and future efforts and struggles to save CUNY as a working-class institution that embodies the best of our city’s hopes and aspirations for equality and diversity in public higher education. Sponsored by the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies (SLU).

Featured Speakers:

Stephen Brier, Professor of Urban Education, CUNY Graduate Center and Professor of Labor Studies, SLU

Jamell Henderson, Coordinator, CUNY Rising Alliance and 4-time CUNY graduate

Justin Sánchez, Co-chair SLU Student Union and student in the B.A. Program in Urban and Community Studies

Andrea Ades Vásquez, First Vice President, Professional Staff Congress, CUNY

The panelists’ presentations, which will focus on ideas and examples of how CUNY can be saved from austerity and how NYC can be resurrected, will be followed by a Q&A session with the Zoom audience, moderated by Penny Lewis, Professor of Labor Studies, SLU.

New Labor Forum Highlights: June 2020

The New Labor Forum has a monthly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.

In his introduction to  Policing the Planet:   Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter,  the poet Martin Espada writes: “I see the rebels marching, hands upraised before the riot squads, faces in bandannas against the tear gas, and I walk beside them unseen. I see the poets, who will write the songs of insurrection generations unborn will read or hear a century from now, words that make them wonder how we could have lived or died this way, how the descendants of slaves still fled and the descendants of slave-catchers still shot them, how we awoke every morning without the blood of the dead sweating from every pore.” Espada’s words hold special poignancy now, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

George Floyd died on a Minneapolis street, his neck pinioned beneath the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin. Like so many other police killings of people of color, the murder of George Floyd demands that we scrutinize the role of law enforcement unions in relation to racist and warrior-style policing. In the case of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the union is standing by Officer Chauvin and his colleagues, who looked on for over eight minutes as Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe.” Although Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey last year banned the warrior-style training that teaches the sort of chokehold that Officer Chauvin used to restrain Floyd, the Minneapolis Federation continues to champion the use of such potentially lethal maneuvers. The union leadership, in the person of union president Bob Kroll, has a long history of antagonism against advocates of reform and has called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization.” These facts force tough questions about the nature of police unionism. Four years ago, faculty and staff at the CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, publisher of  New Labor Forum, already understood the gravity of this matter and devoted a two-day conference to bringing Black Lives Matter activists into conversation with leaders and members of police unions. In this newsletter, we offer an interview with conference speaker Carmen Berkeley, then Director of the AFL-CIO’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department. We also include reporting from  Mother Jones by Inae Ho on the Minneapolis union’s endorsement of conditions that ultimately led to George Floyd’s death.

Table of Contents
  1. Confronting the Tragedy: An Interview with Carmen Berkeley. Interview by Ed Ott of Carmen Berkeley, former AFL-CIO Director of the Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Department
  2. Minneapolis Banned Warrior-Style Police Training. Its Police Union Kept Offering It Anyway / Inae Oh, Mother Jones

Photo by Kelly Kline via flickr (cc-by-nc-nd)

Video Seminars on Organizing Responses to COVID-19

SLU’s Departments of Urban Studies and Labor Studies invite you to join us for the following video seminars to discuss some of the organizing responses to the pandemic:
Tuesday, April 14, 7-9 pm: “Urban Warfare: Housing Justice Under a Global Pandemic” with Raquel Rolnik (University of São Paulo, former UN Rapporteur on Adequate Housing), Daniel Aldana Cohen (University of Pennsylvania), and Cea Weaver (Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance). Co-sponsored by NYU Urban Democracy Lab, NYC-DSA, Verso Books, and Departments of Labor and Urban Studies, School of Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY. RSVP HERE​
Thursday, April 16, 6:30-8pm: “Labor Justice” with Mohamed Attia (Street Vendor Project) and Ilana Berger (Hand in Hand Domestic Employers Network); Member of Amazonians United; Frontline healthcare worker. Co-sponsored by NYU Urban Democracy Lab and the Departments of Labor and Urban Studies, School of Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY. RSVP HERE
Stay tuned for a confirmed date for “Justice for Immigrants” with Aamnah Khan (DRUM: Desis Rising Up and Moving and Arts & Democracy), Victor Monterossa, Jr. (Covenant House, New Jersey and Immigrant Workers for a Just Response) and Paula Chakravartty (NYU Gallatin and New Sanctuary Coalition). Co-sponsored by the NYU Urban Democracy Lab and Departments of Labor and Urban Studies, School of Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY.
If you have questions, please contact Dr. Stephanie Luce at stephanie[dot]luce[at]slu[dot]cuny[dot]edu

Photo via flickr by A.Davey (cc-by-nc-nd)

Video Seminars: Organizing Responses to the Pandemic

The Departments of Urban Studies and Labor Studies/CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies invites you to join us for the following video seminars to discuss some of the organizing responses to the pandemic:

Tuesday, April 14, 7-9 pm: “Urban Warfare: Housing Justice Under a Global Pandemic” with Raquel Rolnik (University of São Paulo, former UN Rapporteur on Adequate Housing), Daniel Aldana Cohen (University of Pennsylvania), and Cea Weaver (Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance). Co-sponsored by NYU Urban Democracy Lab, NYC-DSA, Verso Books, and Departments of Labor and Urban Studies, School of Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY. RSVP HERE​

Thursday, April 16, 6:30-8pm: “Labor Justice” with Mohamed Attia (Street Vendor Project) and Ilana Berger (Hand in Hand Domestic Employers Network); Member of Amazonians United; Frontline healthcare worker. Co-sponsored by NYU Urban Democracy Lab and the Departments of Labor and Urban Studies, School of Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY. RSVP HERE

Stay tuned for a confirmed date for “Justice for Immigrants” with Aamnah Khan (DRUM: Desis Rising Up and Moving and Arts & Democracy), Victor Monterossa, Jr. (Covenant House, New Jersey and Immigrant Workers for a Just Response) and Paula Chakravartty (NYU Gallatin and New Sanctuary Coalition). Co-sponsored by the NYU Urban Democracy Lab and Departments of Labor and Urban Studies, School of Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY.

Questions: Please contact Stephanie Luce, stephanie[dot]luce[at]slu[dot]cuny[dot]edu

Photo via flickr by Dan Nguyen (cc-by-nc)

SLU Instructor Jacob Carlson Advocates for Rent Moratorium in NYTimes

Economic pressures of coronavirus bearing down increasingly on people living in the United States. Unemployment has skyrocketed. And rents are due. In a NYTimes opinion column today, SLU Urban Studies instructor H. Jacob Carlson, along with NYU’s Gianpaolo Baiocchi, argued that the moment demands nothing short of a rent moratorium:

We need Congress to enact an immediate, 90-day national rent moratorium — a temporary suspension of rent payments that will keep families in their homes before other dominoes start to fall.

This would be a bailout for people — for the countless families already facing difficulties making their next rent payment and who soon will face the real prospect of eviction. If we do not act now, people will lose their access to housing. The social impact of evictions on individuals, families and communities will be brutal.

They observe that 47 percent of renters spend more than a third of their income on rent, and that, “57 percent of renters could not afford an unexpected expense of $400 with the money they have on hand.” Given the precarious situation renters were in before the crisis, the current situation is utterly untenable. And the measures in place aren’t enough.

The eviction moratorium in states like New York is a crucial start but only delays the inevitable. After June 20, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 90-day stay will have lifted, renters will face unpayable debt of months of back-rent and fees, as well as damaged credit. Housing courts will swell with the backlog, and many people will be evicted. Similarly, while freezing rents going up for lease renewal is useful, it will not be enough for families unable to pay current rent prices.

Read the full column here.

A conversation about workers, communities and social justice

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