Neocolonialism in New York City: Urban Planning Through Critical Theory
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Most land use proposals in New York City must be approved through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Within this process, the Department of City Planning, the City Planning Commission, the City Council and the Mayor each hold binding positions in relation to those in the community. This disproportionate power distribution results in a pattern where community voices are continually and systematically marginalized. In response, neighborhoods have formed coalitions, associations and grassroots organizations across the city in order to advocate for themselves and resist unjust planning measures. Through interviews with individuals involved with neighborhood housing movements, this study listens and learns from local narratives about how they have been impacted by city planning initiatives. These conversations reflect how individuals are reclaiming their power on personal and communal levels in order to create more equitable cities for themselves and for future generations. Additionally, these interviews are directly juxtaposed with the dominant narratives of city government officials gathered from media sources and government publications. Motivated by emancipatory and hermeneutic pre-knowledge interests, this study utilizes the Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory and Michel Foucault’s methodology of “insurrection of subjugated voices,” in order to recognize the systems of inequality that are perpetuated by the institution of urban planning in New York City. Within this theoretical framework, the findings of this research emphasize that the current legal arrangements of urban planning structurally sideline community voices by valuing a neoliberal approach to constructing the city. By continually prioritizing quantitative factors and profit over real human costs, the institution of urban planning in New York City reveals its neocolonial characteristics.
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