Wednesday — Screening and Discussion — MietRebellen and El Barrio Tours

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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’s Screening

When: Wednesday, July 16, 7:00 p.m.
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.
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

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
Social Housing in a Post-social Berlin

* 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


El Barrio Tours

* Gentrification from an East Harlem Perspective

Gentrification: From an East Harlem Perspective

* There is no “Sweet Spot” for Displacement


– notes

* 5 Ways to Combat Gentrification in NYC