In this post, we invite Harvard Graduate School of Design Doctoral Candidate Adam Tanaka to comment on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious plan to build 80,000 new and preserve 120,000 existing affordable housing units in New York City by 2025. Tanaka looks back to large-scale development efforts from the post-war era as a model for the politics of coalition building necessary for the ambitious projects required to meet the Mayor’s goal, illuminating how public and private sectors might “divide and conquer” in their attempt to meet the housing needs of both low- and moderate-income groups. The principal lesson that emerges from this retrospective is on mayoral leadership bringing together a network of pro-development and progressive institutions including public and union pension funds, financial institutions, affordable housing advocates and neighborhood groups, non-profit and for-profit developers, and large employers like hospitals and universities.
Most studies of urban segregation focus upon the ways in which fixed sites become increasingly “walled off” from each other and from the surrounding urban system. This paper complicates such a picture by analyzing the ways in which patterns of transport mobility — not just buildings and neighbourhoods, but the networks that connect them — also become insulated and increasingly segregated from one another. Specifically, it explores the relationship between the car and the spatialization of social inequality in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The paper is structured in two parts. The first provides a brief conceptual overview of the social and spatial impacts of automobility, building on the work of mobilities theorists such as John Urry. While cars and their associated infrastructures are often perceived as neutral or apolotical technologies, the paper illustrates that such transport modes play a central role in mediating and reproducing broader societal power relations. The second part of the paper focuses on Sao Paulo as a case study for these trends, arguing that urban planning directives over the past sixty years have established an autocity that predominantly serves the purposes of upper income groups. Modernist aspirations for spatial equality in the post-war period were gradually distorted by the unequal nature of the Brazilian modernization process. Modernist transit infrastructures that were intended to connect different social groups manifest themselves as tools of separation. The emergence of a more polycentric urban form in the late 1980s and 1990s, as the Brazilian economy neoliberalized and the city increasingly oriented itself towards the financial services sector, is also examined from a mobilities perspective. The paper concludes by exploring how deeper issues of democracy, equality and individualism are themselves constituted and contested through the practices of urban (auto)mobility.