Wednesday — 07.16.14 — Screening and Discussion — MietRebellen and El Barrio Tours
0. About Wednesday
1. Notes on MietRebellen
2. Notes On El Barrio Tours
3. Further Reading
0. About Wednesday
What: Screening of MietRebellen: Widerstand gegen den Ausverkauf der Stadt [Rent Rebels: Resistance Against the Clearance-Sale of the City, 2014] and El Barrio Tours, 2014.
When: Wednesday, July 16, 7:00 p.m.
Where: 16 Beaver St., 4th Floor
Who: Free and Open to all
Within the context of our collective inquiries on initiatives and struggles to common the city, the question of resistance to processes of gentrification (processes which always have a class and racial character to them) has been a recurrent thread.
As a development of these conversations, this Wednesday’s screening features two films on urban gentrification and rent resistance: Mietrebellen, on rent struggles in Berlin, where vibrant neighborhood associations are resisting displacement through occupations/protest, and El Barrio Tours, on the gentrification of East Harlem.
We hope to discuss the perspectives gained in struggles by looking at both cities examining the “translocal” aspects of gentrification processes and the global tendencies towards accumulation by dispossession (in the form of real estate speculation) as well as systemic discrimination/racism in the guise of speculation. We will also look at the ways different groups are creatively allying to resist this process by forming vibrant autonomous networks of associations which reclaim territories threatened by speculation and return a vital collectively produced character to the city.
(This evening also comes together out of some specific conversations between Brian McCarthy, David Scheller, and Andrew J. Padilla — all of whom will be present for the screenings and discussion.)
1. Notes on MietRebellen
In Berlin: as subsidy terms established in the 1970s — which ensured a high rate of return on the construction of public housing in the form of public subsidies for rent to real estate companies — either expire or are intentionally dismantled as part of neoliberal privatization policies beginning in 2003, tenants (in the case of Kottbusser Tor, largely Turkish tenants) are faced with increasingly exorbitant rental increases, and effectively displaced.
“Social housing is no guarantee for socially acceptable rents but rather for absurdly high profits for property owners”. Indeed, as most of these buildings are paid for, what remains after the gradual dismantling of subsidy terms and housing faces the “market rate” is pure speculation under the guise of “public housing”.
“Flats that once were unattractive are now being used as secure investment objects. The transformation into owner-occupied flats and massive rent increases become an everyday phenomenon. The visible tenant protests in the vibrant metropolis of Berlin are a reaction to the growing shortage of affordable housing.
The movie is a kaleidoscope of the tenants’ struggles in Berlin against their displacement out of their neighbourhood communities. Ranging from the occupation of the Berlin town hall to a camp at Kottbusser Tor, the organised prevention of evictions and the struggle of senior citizens for their community center and age-appropriate flats, a new urban protest movement is on the rise.”
The situation facing tenants is as much about greed (accumulation by dispossession — privatizing the commons to enrich speculative investors) as it is a form of systemic and implicit racism. Tacit prejudices against low-income tenants are instrumental in the leveraging of forced evictions. In Kotbusser Tor, the primarily Turkish residents are caught in a feedback of discrimination from state agencies and private companies, their emigrant “status” (and long presence in the neighborhood) a mark against the neighborhoods’ “intermix”. Neighborhoods which were anathema because of minority populations decades ago suddenly become attractive to a new wave of gentrifiers. Rental prices follow suit, justifying greed as “demand” and a cultural desertification by the opening of the floodgates wide to capital — a “clearance sale” of the city.
In the context of the common(s) course, the autonomous movements to protest or resist this process — neighborhood association, town hall occupations, establishing informal relations and networks of community solidarity, whether as an actual defense of buildings, or as a alliance of neighborhood awareness and empowerment — present critical examples of the claiming and the reclaiming of urban spaces for common use.
2. Notes El Barrio Tours
“For a long time, many people thought East Harlem would be immune to gentrification because the neighborhood had one of the highest concentrations of public housing in the country.
Recent plans by NYCHA to build infill market-rate housing on two of its properties in East Harlem shows that’s not the case.
The proposal only threatens to speed up the process of gentrification. NYCHA claims the plan will provide the money the authority desperately needs to repair and preserve public housing. NYCHA’s plan is being received with anger by residents at the eight complexes in Manhattan where it is being proposed.
But the government can make policies that help people stay in their neighborhood and not just focus on developer tax breaks…”
“… This film [focuses] on, my home: El Barrio, and its transition to ‘Upper Yorkville’, ‘Spaha’, or whatever real estate developers have decided to name it now.
. . .when [real estate development] begins to displace the hard working people that helped make El Barrio the enviable real estate locale it has become, the very people that forged its now rather marketable ‘culture’, that is when we must take a closer look at the ‘development’ of El Barrio.”
“Some people think gentrification is primarily about race but the main color is green.”
Andrew J. Padilla is a Puerto Rican filmmaker, photographer, and street reporter born and raised in East Harlem aka “El Barrio.”
3. Further Reading
* the film http://rentrebels.tumblr.com
* Some background information about the Protest Camp at Kottbusser Tor
* About the context of social housing subsidies from their perspective
* A current massive police action and protest in Kreuzberg against the eviction of a former school that has been squatted by refugees in the last two years. (partly in english)
El Barrio Tours
* Gentrification from an East Harlem Perspective
* There is no “Sweet Spot” for Displacement
* 5 Ways to Combat Gentrification in NYC