tv Lizabeth Cohen Saving Americas Cities CSPAN November 10, 2019 5:45pm-6:51pm EST
global educations. >> afterwards airs saturday at 10 pm and sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific on book tv. c-span two. all are available as podcasts and available online. booktv.org. >> i think the clock has told us to begin. thank you for joining us this evening. dating back to 1791. we have a fabulous library. an amp bowl number of programs and expeditions.
the society will do they honor. i just wanted to take a moment to greet everyone. [applause] a terrific number of programs. including some definitive conversations how to begin. this is a book about lifetime work. a career based in the strong premise that cities are important. vital to civilization. vital to this world.
i will let her tell you about the book. i will tell you the first time i met my first week at the appropriation, they had left. primary for mayor. i never met him although i knew the agency working there to graduate school. it happened on a very odd day. we were working on the 46 floor the building. we were the only at the time. a very difficult time. they were reluctant to sign the lease with the state agency
because god knows what that might feel like. it was only between paper or obligations. that particular day, everybody was carrying around a copy of the new york post. a story. this private building on no lower floor than the 46th floor. fatally, it was not like a building in albany. anymore than the new. if you read the book, you will know about. everybody has the newspaper. i never met ed. i said to him, out of peter -- i was only that age. this story is really not right.
i could only summon one word. i said, really, good. it is supposed to make you feel that way. that, in a nutshell knowledgeable. the book will tell you that, liz cohen received from princeton university. in ma and phd at the university of california berkeley. in 1986, she became an assistant professor at carnegie mellon. she joined in 1997 the history department where she is a professor.
in 2011, in addition to those, she became dean for grand study. a job that she did until 2018. she has been published in the new york times, the washington post. i don't see anything about the new york post here. her books include making a deal. industrial workers in chicago and was a finalist of the pulitzer prize in history. politics and mass consumption in america. widely used college textbook. also in american academy in arts and science. i would only say one other word. you should read this book from cover to cover. don't be put off by the fact it has 115 pages of footnotes. more content and fun in those
footnotes in any book i've ever read. you don't have to be a scholar to get it. these are stories in and of themselves. [applause] >> thank you very much, tony. a couple of things just to say. that headline about the opposite of the edc in new york, talking about it. i just want to thank tony, not only for introducing me here today, but for giving me many hours of interviews and i can you will see, if you read the book, how much i depend on his memory and his take and his analysis of what went on, particularly in that. very nice to be here.
thank you for coming. i see a lot of familiar faces which is wonderful, and some new faces. i am glad for both. i look forward to sharing with you this book that i have worked on for a long time as some of you know because their people here that have been very helpful to me over the years. approximately 14 years of working on this book with delays for seven years by that deanship for grant study. that was a delay, but, actually, when i look back onto it it was an inspiration in many ways. it really encouraged me to value writing for public at radcliffe. i want to start by giving you some background on why wrote this book. i am not a biographer. i am a social political urban
strand of the united states in the 20th century. this is a very different kind of book than what i had written before. i think maybe it is not on. the green light that i once saw okay. great. not changing. we just put a new battery in. right. okay. here we go. there. that is it. that is the one i want. this is a very different kind of book than what i wrote before. and most of my earlier work as a
social historian, i was writing the history of groups of ordinary americans. first and second generation immigrants. factory workers. immigrants that had moved from the south to northern cities. south to northern cities. middle-class homeowners and consumers and so forth that kind of history is generally referred to as history from the bottom up. you might wonder why i had written a biography about a powerful white male city builder i first decided that i wanted to write a book about a world war ii city. i wanted to to grapple with the changing physical building environment as well as how those changes came about. as i put it in the book's introduction, i aim to understand who is in charge, who should have a say, do benefits and who pays the bills. i determined that focusing on
the life of somebody that is personally engaged with the struggle for revitalized postwar american cities, in a period where post-massive irby out was woman, would be a promising way to frame this book and engage readers, i hope, and what i thought was thought was a very important story. i consequently became attracted to this new challenge of putting an individual with power at the center of my book. i was writing history from the top down. i was trying to bring to it analysis of social system orients. their concerns with the importance of social identities. race and ethnicity, professions professions and so forth. in my previous book, consumption in postwar america, i had written about the rise of mass suburbia. an important place for residents, for work and for congress after world war ii.
calling the lamb state of mass consumption. at the carving new housing development. the rise of shopping centers at new highway intersections. i am plied that cities were being displaced by suburbia. that was not really what my subject was. i set up to write what became saving american cities. i wanted to understand better what this decentralization of these areas actually meant for cities. particularly, the older established ones that survived from the 19th century and into the early 20th century, but were were now post-world war ii. i also felt from the start that we had illuminated how postwar
american cities were. they, essentially, on dismissing urban redevelopment as urban renewal. that assumption seem to equate all intervention in cities with the work of villains like the notorious. in contrast, the ideal postwar cities was thought to be articulated by the more saintly jacobs with her message of anti-planning, hands-off, let neighborhood densities develop organically on their own. surely i thought that the story must be more complicated than the clash of these two very extreme and caricature positions. i certainly knew that from the late 1940s into the 1970s had some quite steep things.
excessive dislocation of presidents that were african americans and other. a problematic relief in the importance of separating residents work in retail. the imposition of suburban car oriented schemes on downtown. highways that slash through neighborhoods. on the other hand, i also knew that many american cities were truly in trouble by the late 1940s and in need of help. after a decade and half of the devastating great depression followed by the deprivation of wartime, cities were bleeding people, jobs and much more. as a city dweller and a city lover, i was increasingly alarmed with what i was seeing around me. the shopping deteriorates asian of urban infrastructure as well as a worsening crisis in
affordable housing. everywhere in the united states. low-rent apartments are fast disappearing. more than one third of american households are paying over 30% of their income on shelter and in many parts of this country people are paying over 50%. moreover, a drastic divide has developed between cities that are flourishing in cities that are failing. we have have didn't have knots cities not only within them. i wondered, how did we get heree the resources that made the u.s. a country with a highly functional mass transit that has here in boston and well engineered up to date roads, bridges and tunnels. where was the commitment that had led the nation to at least a
third of the housing act in 1949. irresponsibility, and. irresponsibility, and i quote providing a decent home and suitable living environment for every american family. something to learn from how we got to this place. i started looking around for an ideal subject for my book. i had a checklist. things i was looking for. most importantly, i importantly, i sought an individual whose life would allow me to tell two intertwined stories. how a person and a nation went about trying to revitalize american cities and the mutual influence they had on each other and on american cities. .... ....
memories and contact in family papers. and then to figure out and then to offer an amazing way to tracking shifts in urban redevelopment over four decades. in new haven in the 19 fifties in boston the 19 sixties and new york state through the mid- 1970s in the south bronx 1978 or 1985. in teaching courses at mit and to try unsuccessfully to write his memoir. and at the age of not quite 79 died at martha's vineyard.
said to be born in 1921 and the widowed kindergarten teacher that y'all law school on the g.i. bill to be equally engaged with the city of new haven. with those working-class residents they got to know whom they later help to organize labor unions. with the daughter of yale college it grew even deeper. portrait as a complicated figure buys some that are deeply disliked by others that are most comfortable to be a
level in the belly of the establishment piece. and repeatedly over his lifetime made his way into bastions of power and then fought hard damaging deficiencies. and the second point i would make is that he became committed as part of the liberal progressive politics that would counter too many assumptions that we make. and as part of a pro-business growth machine to stand in stark contrast to work with the labor organizer and that white not black america had a race pub and overcome and over
serving the public interest so to think the problems of cities is the next frontier of the new deal and that extensive federal dollars and expert know-how should be applied to the challenge to save america cities. a typical pronouncement and it must control it. and coming to believe earlier in his career those environments could have larger social and political benefits. and discover this in a surprising way. to serve as special assistant to the new nation of india and a former new dealer and then
to observe the us government and the foundation investing in community development with villages and housing in hopes of creating a more hopeful and democratic and anti-communist india. subsequently bringing lessons that was called the third world from first world american cities. this is not the usual direction that we assume influence has grown. time in the developing world is only the first example with a transnational circulation of planning and architecture and
to be very much influenced by social housing in europe and later to be taken with the creation of european new towns which is a strategy to deal with the devastation of world war ii in european countries. upon returning from india 1953 begetting a career in urban redevelopment over four decades. as i follow the personal story in the book the process was not at all democratic but it continued to change over time to experiment with different approaches in response to its own admitted failures with a shift of national policy to implement some surprisingly progressive ideas.
it isn't that one huge disaster but a much more complex evolutionary response i will not take you through all of the details but one of the reasons why the chapters are robust as they are the editor said you have to cut 30000 words. the book is better for that by a lot of that ended up in the footnotes. [laughter] so i will give you the highlights of the four acts. act number one through 1961 he came up with the newly reformed democratic mayor to try to turn around a city old industries were closing in
many successful industries were feeling loyal to new haven and abandoning their original home. and leading to the disappearance just as african-americans were arriving from the south in hopes of making a better living. at the same time middle-class white residents in search of new warehousing and other aspects and in some cases quite implicitly that is becoming more nonwhite and finally the i-95 highway was threatening to bypass downtown new haven they knew would be a deathknell to the retail center for the region already facing competition from new shopping centers opening up in
the suburbs. so the important point to make is that cities like new haven were truly struggling and then to use newly available federal funding from the housing act of 1949 and 64 to make a national laboratory for physical renewal as well as innovative programs. many of which like neighborhood legal services would make their way into lbj great society. in the end it was more dollars per capita than any other settlement. and was widely viewed as ground zero for urban renewal. and to have some successes over all the first phase turned out to be deeply problematic. in new haven for many reasons that i go into in the book
most egregiously here and elsewhere pour down low income neighborhood departments aim to keep the middle-class and inner-city in the high way to connect downtown to i-95 and to introduce a car oriented center to downtown. i also from the way urban renewal consulted with community residents and i discovered that they felt they were being democratically minded experts protecting the public good but their approach sought mostly representatives of community organization. i call this approach pluralist democracy drawn from the analysis that robert dall
developed in political science based on new haven government. so i conclude that there was massive clearance democratic community consultation was flawed. so with the destruction of the immigrant followed much the same pattern. act ii is boston. 1960 through 1967. 1960 hired first as a consultant and then his head of a much expanded development authority and by another new mayor who had ambitions to turn around his ear bankrupt and paralyzed city. and learning from his mistakes in new haven and those that have taken place under the
previous two, and waving a flag fallowing never to undertake the kind of demolition that had happened. i examine two dimensions of work in boston of downtown in the neighborhood. the heart of downtown urban renewal was the creation of urban center to revitalize the stagnant downtown to greatly expand jobs and the pressure of reluctant yankee business relief to commit to the city that it had been ignoring for decades. they were investing elsewhere and seeking to control boston from the massachusetts state house. the government story is a fascinating one to make use of the federal power and as the
boston globe wrote and then with a design for city hall that it is nothing but a wholehearted affirmation of the new time in social needs and the new technology and aesthetics in the civic instrument of government". the architects of city hall is off on guard modernist design with the integrity of government as one of the architects put it many years later, he and his partners had a tremendous feeling that government was not just benevolent institution but was the institution for social change. city hall should be the people's palace and the symbol of open government. the government center project and here he came to recognize
the importance of preserving some boston structure like quincy market to create historic and modern buildings. but that still characterizes boston today. he also learned they needed to broaden the base of support for his program and as he sought a wide range of allies including the catholic church , newspapers like the boston globe and like the presidents of jordan marsh and local architects and that oriented black middle class who could own houses and very few boston neighborhoods to renew washington park with open arms.
so those efforts to revitalize boston's other neighborhoods were contentious that were either downtown or washington park. in the end that just as he had to negotiate, so too he had to negotiate with key neighborhood groups now look at five boston neighborhoods. washington park and madison par park, charlestown, and north harvard area. what i discovered is every neighborhood has its own story. added to its base of class and race but the outcome i learned proved much more complicated than the common assumption that urban renewal could simply be reduced to neighborhoods from lower-class.
moreover i argue over the course of these years through urban renewal experience neighborhood residents developed important skills of negotiating with city officials to a participant observer who was an mit graduate student later became a professor when they called the rehabilitation planning game. boston citizens would apply the skills to more affordable housing to with the inner belt highway project defeated in the seventies. the experiences of fighting urban renewal in the 19 sixties contributed to a new expectation of what that democratic process of consultation and city redevelopment should entail. as another social movements of this era like civil rights and feminism grassroots participatory democracy became
a requirement. like a very big shift from the expectations for community consultation in the 19 fifties that we call pluralist democracy. and to be widely credited to bring about the city's turnaround but as his boston years and did - - ended a failed effort in 1967 to run for mayor of city when collins announced he was stepping down. but it became clear that he was better suited for the administrators back room than the mayor front office he was a terrible campaigner but also suffered from a ten person race with a front runner was louise day hicks which encouraged her opponents to
rally around one candidate kevin white. act iii new york state. through 1975 the next act comes about when liberal republican governor rockefeller was frustrated with the difficulty to get new york state owners to approve bond issues would require the bill of subsidized housing in the state. he came up with the ambitious work around an urban renewal agency with power and he hired add to had it for going to have a line in the book where i end the chapter after the election when he gets a position and he hires janet murphy to be his assistant and she knocks on the door and says the governor is on the phone and ed says which governor and she says
rockefeller. it is called the new york state urban development corporation udc with a combination of state funds and federal dollars and a very unique move to allow bonds to be sold to private investors and in recognition of the difficulty of this job rockefeller gave udc tremendous authority including the ability to acquire property through eminent domain and to override ordinary local zoning and building codes. but does legislatures was not easy particularly about overwriting zoning. i only came about reluctantly when rockefeller argued after mlk was assassinated and
needed a true memorial made not of stone but of action. and it can also be said rockefeller was very good at twisting arms. basically that's how he got it. to have many successes building 33000 units over six and a half years the alternative to demolitions by creating towns that was the inspiration i mentioned earlier from europe on undeveloped land there were those in new york city and they were planned deliberately to be mixed income and mixed-race and mixed age communities and experiment to innovative architectural design such as low rise high density alternative to high-rise public housing. just to point out the picture on the upper right in the corner is during the discussion with ed and others
about this new housing market strategy to be part of this project and also became a leader in affirmative action planning in the state but udc came tumbling down when modest amounts were in nine westchester communities he called a fair share housing program and then to make it more difficult to turn off the federal spigot to have a moratorium on all spending on housing with a new federalist agenda to reduce the role of the federal government as a result udc came through collapse including with the bond sales to accuse udc to put the social mission before its responsibility to investors.
february 1975. udc disastrously defaulted on notes and loans and ed was forced to resign laying anger and frustration he said it was too good to last. that's why i so cordially dislike bankers they feel threatened that social engineering as if that is moral said i was very proud of the fact that this was a total piece of social engineering". final act when you are watching the man as he ages through life. in the south bronx 1978 through 85 becoming president of the south bronx development organization s bdo the last major redevelopment job he thought to rehabilitate himself after they udc spectacular failure and aim to rehabilitate one of those in the nation with less power and
a smaller amount of funding than he ever had and then to continue under carter between 1981 in 1987 the federal housing programmer / by two thirds and in its place actively promoting private market solutions. as presidents and then to scramble for resources to shift strategy out of necessity often seeking ways to take advantage of the new orientation to private market solution by developing industrial parks and to partner with private lenders
the signature program was which consisted of prefabricated single-family homes constructed in one of the most troubled neighborhoods in new york city. to be heavily subsidized per purchase with the goal of attracting low or middle-class homeowners with revitalization of the neighborhood that multifamily rental housing was expected to follow with hundreds of black and puerto rican residents transit workers and security guards fire and police and nurses and teachers to have the suburban type of house they could not afford or was unavailable to them as people of color with the new york lily white sub one - - suburban communities.
here he clearly and regretfully abandoned innovative architectural design in favor of a conventional style that would appeal to prospective buyers and private funding. another housing provided a blueprint and that was the to several hundred thousand municipalities and third in most notably after a long career paying lip service , here in the south bronx he did it working closely with community planning boards like the med bronx desperado coming to recognize how necessary they were to achieving
success. in conclusion, let me highlight a few points to take away from the deep dive into his career. first, over time ad learned a lesson that other do-gooders learn that the work of her burn urban redevelopment experts of a new profession he worked extremely hard during the fifties and sixties to promote has serious limitations. participation by committee members greatly mattered. but how to avoid focus on one single quarter of the city was a challenge for cities today. and then to learn from this history planning for a neighborhood then throughout
career to struggle to figure out ways to do two things that proved very difficult for him. first how to create socially diverse communities by income and race and age which he felt would benefit deeply that low and middle americans have minorities we get decent and equitable services such as schools and transportation retail stores as well as greater opportunities in the future for themselves and children in a society where your residential location dictate life chances and it is best position to demand the best ad promoted socially integrated communities. may frequently lack the tools
he needed to do this so we still struggle how to keep existing residents and neighborhoods that are gentrified with sufficient numbers of section eight vouchers for low income people who do want to move to better serve communities or the larger scale requirement that developers must include affordable units or contribute to building elsewhere in the city. second was how to involve whole metropolitan areas to solve housing, schooling and other problems facing inner-city residents. outright fruitlessly to have this happen he hoped that finally with a udc he can make it happen within new york state but in the end that effort contributed to the downfall of all and metropolitan problem-solving
remains mostly elusive today. finally the greatest disappointment and disillusionment of his career was the decline and role of the responsibility of government particularly at the federal level the financing and revitalizing of cities and subsidizing of affordable housing. for his career he watched support steadily shrinking the responsibility shift to the private sector which he considered a very serious mistake. he anticipated what we encountered of cities forced to make deals in the end block future tax revenues undo burdens on public services and the race to the bottom of course amazon is the latest example and half of the private sector might profit such as building public infrastructure but too often much needed projects go unaddressed and can get on - -
conditions deteriorate. to the end of his life ed said and resignation the basic responsibility for subsidizing housing to the lower income families is federal it is everywhere in the developed world used to be with us. most importantly even with urban renewal was at best the proverbial mixed bag we can still admire and re- capture the spirit of commitment and experimentation that propels people like ed and others who worked with him rather than content ourselves on a limited policy possibilities to dominate since the 1980s. i will quote myself at the end of my boat this would be the legacy of urban renewal he would want us to honor and
would consider the highest tribute we could pay to his lifetime of public service of perfection. thank you. [applause] we have ten minutes for questions. >> to what extent did he work with callahan like on the extension in the sixties quick. >> he very much believed and highways. i really don't come across any major conflicts. he inherited the expressway situation then he and collins
both regretted that terribly how it cut the city off from the waterfront and other problems. i didn't see much about that but tony told me in my interview some funny stories after ed had left boston and then you came back to work on the alternative part that you used to joke with him and he would tease you to say you're doing all of his wor work. but you said that at some level he recognized that the days of highways are the only solution was over. partly you also made the point that at that time there really were going to have public transit in the middle of the highway literally the only way to get it accomplished. but he was focused on saving the city. in new haven he thought the answer would be to keep people
in the city. but by the time he finished in new haven he felt that was a losing game so he came to boston to recognize suburbanization had taken off and they would not reverse that. instead what he focused on was to keep jobs downtown rather than having them move out out of the city. he saw those roads as bringing people back to work in the city. he forgot both directions. i don't have anything specific to say. >> and throughout his career various authorities that gave tremendous power to him and
currently in boston with the boston redevelopment authority should take its powers away does not represent democracy. >> i knew that question would come up. [laughter] and actually i should just point out the grab story that came out in the ideas section on sunday was that i had the interview with courtney humphreys a couple weeks ago. but then the report came out and she came back to me and said now my editor wants to make sure we take this into account. so obviously there is a lot more to learn. i had not read the report.
i haven't followed the history of the bra with the same attention after ed left so i don't feel well informed enough to say that i really know what they have been up to but i would point out a few things that first of all in the report when it completely trashes urban renewal there are very few changes made over time and that's the point i'm trying to make that the examples that they give are basically the left of the 19 fifties which were terrible and disastrous for good and as we try to show you there was an evolutionary process.
and to send those issues back to city council is not the best solution. one of the things, i go through the history of the city council and with those renewal plans the city counselors were all at large it was supposed to be a fix for the specific neighborhoods before the charter change. so we need to think hard about what is the best solution next it is understandable people would understand that prosperity boston is going through is not widely shared.
we know the affordable housing crisis is terrible in the city and other problems like transit and other services. there are definitely problems. that we need to think through the best solution and that the bp da is accountable to communities. but i feel good about the topic i think it is a healthy discussion for the city to have as the gap just seems to grow between the haves and have-nots but i hope we look at a full range of remedies. >> i didn't live here at the time when he ran for mayor but
to some extent did the lack of success politically reflect a referendum on his activities and redevelopment was a lack of campaign ability quick. >> i think it's both but others. in addition to a terrible campaigner many people were with him who helped him in the south bronx and told me that the north and was awful. he would go off to someone and say hi. and he would say you have to say i am ed i am running for mayor. he just was not oriented that way so he got to the point he
was blunt. he just was not cut out for that. but i do think there was a sense he didn't have the deep roots kevin white came from a family with a great pedigree and those who were running from beacon hill neighborhood so ed was the carpetbagger. obviously he was a controversial figure of urban renewal in the neighborhood. he got support from architects who knew that there was work coming. but i think he was viewed as a liberal candidate but the problem was that people worried the vote would be
divided. and they were all from beacon hill it was the same constituency being divided among them. and one more thing that i talk about in the book is that when ed had to make a list trying to write the book not very successfully the biggest mistakes of his career. number one was the north harvard situation but you have to read the book to figure out that disaster but they did not negotiate he learned lessons there that was a mistake. but the other thing number two was his challenging of white petitions. so they all have to get signatures on petitions. probably there was some funny business in kevin white's
petition but the ad campaign handled it very poorly they had somebody make the complaint that was really from the campaign that disappeared into the woodwork and in the and it worked against him rather than against kevin white. and to have a very strong feeling with the people he worked with and his brothers and that something i talk about in the book. he is a fraternal relationships and people that still think so well of him did feel that bond with him and he brought his brother frank up to run his campaign which is a very big mistake. some of the people i interviewed who were hard-core boston political operators said we offered to help but frank said he didn't need our help so we backed off. there were a lot of mistakes
made. >> i'm a citizen of cambridge you describe it as failing but they built a whole pile of building. >> s 30000 units. >> so when you say fail that obviously. >> you want me to say how it failed so how many live in housing that he is responsible for quick. >> i met a lot of the people that are the veterans several years ago when there was an exhibition the creators of the exhibition went back to many of the projects like marcus garvey low by his identity and
photographed how people were living in housing today. the reason why i said it failed is i gave you only one explanation because of time with what happened with the westchester project. after that the state legislature god its chance to basically kill the udc and they took away its power to override local zoning. everywhere but in the city. that the other way in which a difficult process was there was a lot of accusations that they had not handled its finances responsibly enough. so the bankers wanting the investors thinking of it as an investment and he just thought it was another source of resources. there was never any
mismanagement with that commission over a year. but there - - they were so driven to make this work that there was some sloppiness ultimately divided. but with the housing to be bill in the new town but if they thought you do see would go on forever because it would be self financing and obviously it did not. >> i would like to comment to get your thoughts on the subject, focusing on boston because that's where i have spent all of my career.
i started before and was even involved with every mayor and administrator some of which i would not speak about until they pass. [laughter] so i am not surprised of the assumptions being made. but one was there was some chuckling with the discussion came about city council in boston and it is true. way back not only ed but particularly when he was around and certainly during most of the regime, the city council was jokingly called clowns it is a very different city council from just reading the paper today it is far more
representative of boston has a lot of women independents that are very smart et cetera. one of the problems with urban renewal and i know you had to stop because that he went to new york so you have that half but not the other half. the other half is when all the different mayors came in after him and at the degree less brick at least kevin follow through on a great deal. he followed a great deal of what took place in the bra when it was really a redevelopment agency with a huge staff paid by the city and therefore when other mayors came in they took the
attitude of private development as a panacea. so if we look at what happened to that example everybody knows it and can see it is the seaport district that is an example of private development program at say they are all bad guys but that is an example of private development and there is still time to run the show and that's a problem with affordable housing. >> i will just add one thing. the point well taken about the city council. but i will say you use the phrase of the clowns but part of the issue was the charter ruining the structure of government gave most of the power to the mayor so the only way the city council could pay attention is when they did
these antics. and to force them into that position. it was a mayor centered system. dealing with a very different city council today. >> they are in there and they are focusing the attention of how the bpa and the p-letter was for planning. and it's hard to find. >> i agree. we are getting a message that we are done. [applause] thank you.