Prepared for the Mapping (In)Justice Symposium
Convening November 7-9th, 2019
Organized by Staff and Faculty from Fordham University
Long Island City has undergone extensive transformation in the last two decades. In part due to three Bloomberg-era rezonings, the neighborhood’s manufacturing past is now overshadowed – literally – by luxury residential towers and hotels, boutique commercial spaces, and corporate headquarters. Under de Blasio, proposals for multiple megaprojects prove the area continues to be a central development target (i.e. the BQX, the Amazon Deal, Sunnyside Yards, and NW Ravenswood). Changes have driven up housing and living costs, and ousted small businesses, manufacturers, and artists and threatened many more; meanwhile growing density strains neighborhood infrastructure. As the pressure builds, groups of local residents have coalesced to advocate for the needs of residents and community members.
Given that these changes undergird contestations today, this series of maps aims to offer additional insight and context to our understanding of how the region has changed and developed over time. If such a project is ever “completed”, then it would be when data dating back to the establishment of public housing could speak to how population, housing, business and zoning landscapes have changed during the time since. Dating back to the 1950s, these communities have some of the longest histories in the region. Moreover, they are at the heart of organizing efforts today.
Presently, the project is in its first iteration – which is limited to publicly-available and accessible data. Specifically, it shows changes in population and housing landscapes between 2000 and 2017.
Rather than “incomplete”, this pause is prudent and necessary, providing space to reflect highlight gaps – in data, understanding, knowledge of technical tools and more, and tweak the trajectory of the project as needed.
Like this first iteration, this mapping project is one part of a feminist activist ethnography that aims to recalibrate our understanding of development in Western Queens and to recognize alternative futures by centering the perspectives and experiences of long-time residents. Said another way, it aims to re-understand the past and present, and situate and ground alternatively imagined futures rooted in the personal histories of residents whose lives are intertwined with the spaces about which we contest.
Hunter (2018) empirically demonstrates what he calls “indigenous timelines”, alternative histories that intersect but are not captured by dominant mainstream narratives of places. His work highlights how black logics and black methods unmoor accepted histories lathered in white supremacy and colonial logic. Like Brand (2018), I am also interested in how these alternative histories and perspectives can be leveraged to question and undo dominant narratives of development – narratives that too are soaked in tainted logics that breed consequential futures for local residents. Instead, how can we create space to support alternative narratives which might inform more just urban futures? In re-calibrating our understanding of our histories, might we re-imagine our futures differently?
A last larger hope is that this series of maps that I have created serve as a starting point for other similar projects or used to further scholarly, activist, and educational endeavors. After all, the data herein belongs to all of us. To this end, data for all of NYC has been included; the data can be independently manipulated based on preferences; the data and map files are publicly available; and suggestions for data to include are welcome here.
Citations & Works Cited
Brand, Anna Livia. “The Duality of Space: The Built World of Du Bois’ Double-Consciousness.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36, no. 1 (February 1, 2018): 3–22. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263775817738782.
Marcus Anthony Hunter. “Black Logics, Black Methods: Indigenous Timelines, Race, and Ethnography.” Sociological Perspectives 61, no. 2 (April 1, 2018): 207–21. https://doi.org/10.1177/0731121418758646.