Tierra Dongieux, Section 2, Critical Synthesis

For this second reaction paper I decided to go with a critical synthesis of two readings we have read, Ronald Kramer’s Moral Panics and Urban Growth Machines: Official Reactions to Graffiti in New York City, 1990-2005 and Aaron Bartley’s The Green Development Zone as a Model for a New Neighborhood Economy as well as the Brooklyn Matters film we watched. One similarity all of these share is the fact that they talk of growth machines in neighborhoods. Now how/what each machine helps/benefits is where some similarities and some differences come into play.
In Brooklyn Matters, the main point of the film was to show how one big league developer was going to change the town for the “better” and what citizens’ different viewpoints were about the project. The project was run by a wealthy elitist who wanted to commercialize what seemed to be a “run down” part of town. He promised jobs and affordable housing in which was not all true. The affordable housing came at a cost and the jobs were only temporary. In Kramer’s article he writes of how graffiti is viewed in New York and what was to be done about it. The graffiti was said to “be understood as a moral panic, which can be said to occur when the reaction to a pattern of behavior that is seen as violating accepted norms or laws is disproportional to the threat posed by the behavior in question.”(Kramer, 299) This was a reason money and organizations grew to prevent graffiti. In class however, we determined that what was done was more an overreaction to the actual offense. Bartley’s article talks of how a Green Development Zone growth machine comes into a neighborhood and how/who it helps. If was an organization that was very community oriented and that had goals everyone in the neighborhood agreed on. The similarity between all these growth machines is that they all had a goal to make an area better – whether communally/morally or economically is a different matter
Brooklyn Matters and Kramer’s article were similar in their reasons as to why a growth machine was present, it was present because of economic matters. The film showed how a huge developer named Ratner wanted to make money off a huge city development. Ratner wanted to knock down private homes and separating the streets with a wall of massive skyscrapers to build businesses. Kramer’s article talks of how graffiti was driving away business (when it really wasn’t) so groups were organized to combat this issue to have business benefit. Both of these articles were also to benefit more elite interests rather than the whole city or neighborhood. Ratner has plenty of people against him but his promise of jobs, affordable housing and basketball won out. The graffiti article said how businesses who had graffiti on them were now forced to clean it up themselves. However at the end of Kramer’s piece it says that business and tourism were booming and nothing really came out of the graffiti initiative. Ratner and his project did go through however and is still causing issues to this day.
The Green Development zone was similar to Kramer by being a growth machine but it related more so to the film. In class we talked about how they both had community support (different levels however), promise of jobs, green space and affordable housing. However some of the differences were in the similarities. Community support for Ratner was split between the people who wanted the jobs and people who wanted to preserve their street. For the GDZ, it was a communal agreement to help the neighborhood with rising gas bills. The promise of jobs by Ratner were only temporary construction ones, the GDZ jobs, from what I could tell, were more long term jobs within the community. The green space Ratner was providing was only for people who could navigate the complicated complex to get to it. The GDZ green space was made on vacant lots where sustainable housing wasn’t built so gardens for the community were put there for everyone to have access to. Affordable housing for Ratner’s project didn’t really benefit anyone whereas the GDZ built houses that were very affordable and efficient.
These two articles and one film all wanted the quality of life to improve for communities however two benefitted the elite interests and one actually helped an entire neighborhood and not just one group. In class we also touched on different types of capital, Kramer and the film relate more toward economic capital while the GDZ is more human capital oriented. I feel like that seeing more hard data on graffiti effecting businesses would help the article make a more solid point at if the growth machine was helpful or not. An updated film of Ratner’s project would also be helpful to see how the citizens feel about it. For the GDZ, it would be nice to see more studies done in different places as well as see if the jobs provided were temporary or not.

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