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January 24, 2011

The Vanishing City: film focuses on the fruits of a corporate-friendly mentality and the "luxury city"; AY gets a cameo

Atlantic Yards Report

Trying to understand the arc of the city that led to such projects as Atlantic Yards, I've been writing recently about the loss of manufacturing. That's part of a larger story, told intriguingly--if incompletely--in the 55-minute 2010 documentary, The Vanishing City, by Fiore DiRosa and Jen Senko.

The overview:

Told through the eyes of tenants, city planners, business owners, scholars, and politicians, The Vanishing City exposes the real politic behind the alarming disappearance of New York’s beloved neighborhoods, the truth about its finance-dominated economy, and the myth of “inevitable change.” Artfully documented through interviews, hearings, demonstrations, and archival footage, the film takes a sober look at the city’s “luxury” policies and high-end development, the power role of the elite, and accusations of corruption surrounding land use and rezoning. The film also links New York trends to other global cities where multinational corporations continue to victimize the middle and working classes.

Opening with the voices of neighborhood residents who fear they are being pushed out, the film pivots on the insights of anthropologist and urban historian Julian Brash, author of Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City and subject of this 10/22/08 Q&A on Jeremiah's Vanishing New York blog.

The "luxury city" quote, as noted at the bottom, reflects Mayor Mike Bloomberg's framing of the city as a luxury product for corporations to choose as a location--a philosophy, as the film points out, that's belied by the tax breaks targeted for big employers.

But the film, not inappropriately, points to an emphasis on building luxury housing, with the attendant shift in the character of neighborhoods, as small businesses close.

The question, echoed in the 2007 and 2008 discussions of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, is whether that was simply the market at work. As the film reminds us, it wasn't.

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Posted by eric at January 24, 2011 9:04 AM