FIGHTING FORWARD AND FIGHTING BACK
For decades, our community collaborators have been fighting back against unjust development processes that avoid meaningful public engagement. Absent from many such organizing efforts are fight forward strategies that build community wealth and ownership to prevent displacement long-term. Many Bronx organizers have experienced the limitations of fighting back without simultaneously fighting forward: campaigns have won demands and claimed victories, yet failed to achieve equitable planning outcomes. BCDI has introduced economic democracy as a framework to shape our fight forward strategies, and Roundtable participants are now preparing for the next rezoning battle by discussing and developing strategies to embed community control and ownership of land.
Coordination and collaboration
For the work of the Roundtable and BCDI, creating a Bronx-wide strategy for development without displacement is about shifting the focus from individual campaigns or neighborhood-level activities to collectively coordinating and implementing a larger movement for shared wealth building. Indeed, Bronx-wide coordination is key to ensuring that interdependent issues and related campaigns are not occuring in siloes - that largely residential neighborhoods in the Northwest Bronx advocating for affordable housing, for example, are aware of and engaged in fights for the preservation of industrial land, open space, and high-road jobs in the South Bronx.
Catalyzing the unique vision of the Roundtable requires high levels of coordination and planning and a different form of engagement than usual. Using six core principles for development without displacement, MIT CoLab and BCDI have engaged in ongoing capacity building. This work has taken various forms, from mapping tutorials to conversations that surface partners’ learning edges and aspirations. It also includes in-depth design meetings that provide space to explore frameworks and envision bold alternatives based on collective ownership and governance of key assets by low income Bronxites of color.
We adopted a borough-wide lens to examine assets, challenges, and trends. In choosing to work at this scale we considered the following: (1) policy-making generally addresses issues at the state and city levels; (2) most planning and advocacy targets the regional and neighborhood level; and (3) the real estate industry that influences so many planning and development decisions across New York City analyzes the boroughs as submarkets. At this moment, the Bronx as a submarket is seen as the next frontier for investment, so aligning our scale in analyzing of challenges and opportunities facilitates more meaningful collaboration across stakeholder groups and increases the viability of more equitable development outcomes.