The bids are in and, following three years of an intense review process and over 40 years of contention, the fate of more than six empty acres across the street and this very site in which we are standing will finally be announced with the selection of a developer as early as this fall. What was once the Seward Park Slum Clearance Project, now better known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA), has become the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Project.
How do we mark such an occasion? With a groundbreaking ceremony a few years from now? With a ribbon cutting ritual several years later? Or perhaps we anticipate both these events with the dedication of a 400 ft. long temporary public art project along a new pedestrian plaza , fully programmed with food and entertainment? Or shall we revert our attention back to its historical origin and commemorate the eviction of some 2,000 residents and nearly 400 small businesses, when their homes and buildings were demolished in 1967? Can we afford “the luxury of omitting the violence of gentrification from our cultural purview”?
What is the purpose of such a monument to gentrification? Is it to recognize the urban pioneers “willing to risk their savings and futures” to conquer new frontiers? Or to memorialize the bodies displaced by the movement, sometimes fast and sometimes slow, of pre-speculative capital? Or perhaps it is neither monument nor memorial, rather, a public notice or bulletin board loyal to the intentions of a community art gallery as a discursive and cultural commons?
The names and addresses that appear on the gallery walls, designed by Manuel Miranda, were taken from a notice, published by the New York City Department of Relocation and Management Services in The New York Times on May 19, 1969, to residential tenants displaced from urban renewal project areas between 1966 – 1968. A payment of $500 was offered to eligible residential tenants, including those of Seward Park. Why then was this conciliatory notice printed and in what context? Today, we recall these names to reclaim, as agents, the placement of bodies and to reengage, as actors, the valorization of this site.
This space gives us pause, not only to remember these names, but also to reflect on the conditions through which these names were brought into print and to act on our potential futures. The “redevelopment” of Seward Park is but a singular case study, a scaled model, and a microcosm of broader processes of force and further concretization of neoliberalism as a dominant paradigm of urban development. To set this singularity into context, authors of different discursive positions will alternately read a series of texts on social housing in an accompanying audio installation.
Written by architect and urbanist Teddy Cruz and read by curator Andrea Phillips, “Rethinking Housing, Citizenship, and Property” registers our current moment of crisis and paralysis and appeals for functional modes of artistic, research, and pedagogical practices to produce new institutional and political models. “From Revanchism to Securitized Public Space,” written by recently passed urban geographer Neil Smith and read by citizen activist and Lower East Side resident Dave Subren, chronicles the shift from reactionary and vengeful policies and actions by the city, amidst erosion of the welfare state and privatization of public resources, to the strategic and militarized securitization of the city. Then, to consider this moment of pause within an art gallery, “Art & Housing: The Private Connection,” written by Andrea Phillips and read by Teddy Cruz, examines the relationship between art objects and “house-objects” as paradoxical forms. Lastly, excerpts from a conversation recorded by artists Bik Van der Pol will further illuminate Neil Smith’s perspective on artists’ positions within the movement of capital and the geographies of investment and disinvestment.
Finally, the singular and the contextual are crossed by a layer of personal affect and memory through a walking tour given by Dave Subren on Saturday, July 13 at 2pm. As a figure of an everyday urban practice, possessing a walking, working and living knowledge, Subren will share his experiences, desires, and speculations. He is the inverse of “critical distance,” with an embeddedness and proximity to a field that has both privileged and marginalized him as the object and subject of urbanism discourse. On this tour, Subren will share why and how he could be so invested as a “citizen” and “resident” of the neighborhood, even while denied either subject position.
**The views expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of Artists Alliance Inc, Cuchifritos Gallery, our Board of Directors or staff.**
Cuchifritos is FREE to the public and handicap accessible. Located inside Essex Street Market at the south end nearest Delancey.
Cuchifritos Gallery & Project Space is a program of Artists Alliance Inc, a 501c3 not for profit organization located on the Lower East Side of New York City within the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center. Cuchifritos is supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. This program is made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. We thank the following for their generous support: Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York City Economic Development Corporation and individual supporters of Artists Alliance Inc. Special thanks go to our team of dedicated volunteers, without whom this program would not be possible.