Start of the second week! After a great dinner with IHP alumni and faculty from across the years we got started with our first session of CUI (Contemporary Urban Issues) which is the big team taught class that integrates all of our field work and also houses the students Comparative Analysis (CA) project, their major primary research independent study. We also did a small debrief on our time in the Rockaways last Friday. Some of the major themes that came out included voluntourism next to people who didn’t think losing their homes was “the most meaningful thing they’d ever done,” the roll of privilege in relief work and the philosophy of mutual aid, the roll of systems in good or bad responses to disaster, and the government’s roll as insurance agency rather than relief organization. One of our students also raised a good point that the group’s playful approach to their full-body paint suits could be disrespectful when working along side people who use those suites for important reconstruction work.
The rest of the day was devoted to our first “Neighborhood Day,” a time when students are sent out into neighborhoods to explore different areas of the city deeply. Sometimes, as today, we have partner organizations in the neighborhoods. I went with a group of students to the lower east side of Manhattan to an area with a history as a working class immigrant neighborhood, and then for it’s waterfront housing projects, and today as an up an coming trendy “east village.” We met with folks from GOLES (good old lower east side), a community organizing organization that particularly advocates for its members’ low and moderate income housing.
We had an interesting conversation, particularly with the Executive Director who captured a lot of the ideas of the urban land ethic: that we have become used to just getting money out of properties. It’s no longer okay to just do well, now you have to be wealthy; that big companies are buying out huge portfolios of tenement buildings, it’s no longer each owner just has a building or two. Very interesting stuff and very well thought out. I will definitely need to reach back there to talk more with them about their work…
Tonight is low key. Going to continue to remember to take breaks, even in the absence of our chief morale officer, Kelly–may she get her visa soon!