Beyond Zuccotti Park Review: Food for Thought

Sam Halvorsen, PhD Candidate at University College London, wrote a very insightful review of Beyond Zuccotti Park in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Area, volume 45, issue 4. Halvorsen briefly introduces BZP, calling it:

a fantastic resource that combines empirical research, political interventions and interviews, broadly focused on exploring the role that public space can have in enhancing democracy in light of the Occupations that spread from downtown Manhattan to hundreds of cities worldwide.

He goes on to emphasize and outline the contributing authors’ intelligent discussion of the significance of physical spaces to the Occupy movement as he claims:

What makes this book stand out is the effort throughout to appreciate ‘the political power of physical places’, as Michael Kimmelman (p. xiii) puts it…The importance of a physical, public space (these terms are often conflated) for enhancing democracy is given numerous explanations by the different contributors: it provides visibility for movements and allows for discussion (Franck and Huang); it inspires and helps build mutual aid and solidarity (Shepard); it opens up a space of negotiation for greater rights (Smithsimon); it gives an ‘office space for everyday people’ (Golan); it presents a critique of spatial exclusion (Wiley); it creates places for new political subjectivities (Rios); and it encourages an embodied sense of community (Rose). This multiplicity of possibilities of physical space leads to a discussion on how best to produce urban space in order to foster these ideals. A key strength of this book is its inclusion of numerous urban practitioners, from artists to architects and planners to policymakers. By sharing their experiences with us, this book presents a hopeful intervention on the potentials of urban space post-Occupy, and allows us to re-imagine the agency of diverse actors in creating different kinds of democracies.

Halvorsen consistently provides perceptive commentary, and, as he brings the review to an end, he states:

In conclusion, I welcome this well-written and well-researched book, which provides significant food for thought for both academics and activists in the post-camp phase of the global Occupy movement.

BZP Review: “Find yourself swept away in the moment.”

Adele Oltman, visiting assistant professor at Seton Hall University, wrote a very thoughtful review of Beyond Zuccotti Park in Missouri State University’s eJournal of Public Affairs, volume 2, issue 2. Here is an excerpt:

Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space serves as a document of the first iteration of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in downtown Manhattan before it spread to other cities across the country. A project of Architects/Designers/ Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR), the volume brings together professionals in the field as well as activists, scholars, an ACLU attorney, and even an official from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, to explore the relationship between public space and democratic action. In this volume you will find a breathless quality to the thick descriptions of the encampment from participant-observers, along with appreciative nods from the other contributors as they place the movement in some larger political and historical context. Photos depict the various phases of the occupation, including police barricades around the park, occupiers scrubbing the ground of the park, the first march across Brooklyn Bridge, the Sustainability Desk that organized environmental endeavors, and energy bikes that occupiers rode after the fire department confiscated the movement’s gas generators (that were used for cooking and charging electronic equipment). Most evocative are photographs of demonstrators, including one of a middle-aged white man wearing a hard hat and carrying a sign that reads: “Occupy Wall Street! Do It for Your Kids.” This is a highly partisan document, but its partisanship does not undermine its significance. Pick it up and you, too, will find yourself swept away in the moment. You might also, as I did, begin to raise questions about the form of this protest and its relationship to meaningful social and political change.

Please read the full review.

BZP is named a book of the month!

A Daily Dose of Architecture has named Beyond Zuccotti Park one of its “28 & 28” books of the month! The blog is focused around architecture and architectural musings from New York City. BZP was chosen as one of the books for this month and featured with a review.

[The contributors’] takes on public space and assembly could be read as recipes for making urban open spaces amenable for exercising democratic rights. It’s certainly a goal that goes well beyond design; or more accurately, the context that design works within is much more charged and contested than in other realms of building and landscape. Consensus won’t be found in the varied collection, but like OWS itself, there is a shared dissatisfaction with things, in this case how the public fits into public space.

Read the full review here.

BZP Makes Planetizen’s Top 10 Books – 2013

The editorial staff of Planetizen has named Beyond Zuccotti Park one of the Top 10 Books for 2013.  The list was based on a number of criteria, including editorial reviews, popularity, number of references, sales figures, recommendations from experts and the book’s potential impact on the urban planning, development and design professions. According to the staff,

If a book could resemble a social movement, Beyond Zucotti Park comes real close. . . Much like the diverse concerns that found a place in the Occupy movement, this book traverses a broad range of questions about the role of public spaces in society.

See the full list here.

Designing Public Spaces That Serve Users, Rather Than Egos

In Sam Hall Kaplan’s blog posted on October 17, 2012, on Planetizen, Mr. Kaplan commented that Beyond Zuccotti Park is a “profound perspective to the import of public space.” He continued:

…the book’s essays survey the importance of public space as a forum for citizen expression granted by the US Constitution and how it has been compromised by the powers-that-be. At issue is no less than essence of democracy, so state Lance Jay Brown and Ron Shiffman, activist academics among the distinguished editors, in a forceful introduction.

 

The burgeoning parklets of Los Angeles and the vest-pocket Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, and for that matter sprawling Tienanmen Square in Peking and Tahrir Square in Cairo, among others, may be separated by thousand of miles and vary in history and scale. But unquestionably they share a critical consciousness in the continuing debate over the future of the design and use of public space.

 

Read the full blog entry here.

 

Progressive Planning Postscript: A Call for Actions

In the Progressive Planning Magazine Fall 2012 issue, an article was adapted from A Call for Actions by Ron Shiffman and Jeffrey Hou from Beyond Zuccotti Park. Below is an excerpt:

We need to be vigilant to ensure that both the availability of public space and the policies that govern its use in no way impede the right to assemble. Rules need to be assessed and promoted that allow us, and our neighbors, to engage in activities that lead to social inclusion. Remember that most of our cities are pluralistic and not homogeneous. Too many of our neighborhoods are the opposite.

 

Let us collectively find ways that break down the barriers in public space based on class, race, ethnicity and gender. Let us find ways to allow our differences—political, social or economic—to be debated in a civil and respectful manner where dissent and confrontation can sometimes rear their head. Let us collectively think about the function of public space as well as its design. Let us organize forums to discuss and debate these issues. Let us link these discussions to the issues indigenous to the area in which we live or work. Let us begin to occupy these spaces because they are public or need to be public and because they allow us to express ideas and pursue ideas and policies that are important to us and our neighbors—ideas and policies that address inequities or help future generations live a healthy and sustainable life. Let us occupy these public places because our democracy depends on our willingness to engage. Let us make sure that places exist that allow ideas to be nurtured, discussed, refined and animated.

 

Finally, let us also learn to occupy the voting booth, to develop a way to enable our concerns, our ideas and our energies to translate into political power so that we can begin the arduous tasks of redressing the disparities that we have allowed to emerge and protecting and refining our democracy. Beyond Zuccotti Park concludes with a call for action, asking design and planning professionals in particular not only to support the Occupy movement and its goal of economic and social democracy but also to act as engaged citizens through their participation in and leadership of their neighborhoods, communities and professional forums. Citizen-initiated movements—large, small, global and local—are essential for any society to self-correct its direction…

 

Midwest Book Review: Library Bookwatch

For their October 2012 Library Bookwatch, the Midwest Book Review included Beyond Zuccotti Park on their Social Issues Shelf and had this to say about the book:

Beyond Zucotti Park is a fine collection of thoughts and articles on the [Occupy] movement and the change it has made in ways that have not been expected in social planning and other elements of society, highly recommended.

 

Read the full review here.

Urban Space and Revolutionary Change

An excerpt from the glowing review by Janey Lee posted on October 15, 2012 on This Big City entitled “Urban Space and Revolutionary Change: A Book Review of Beyond Zuccotti Park“:

Dedicated to “our grandkids, their friends, and their generation”, the collection of works truly takes a visionary approach by offering solutions and recommendations to the problem of decreasing public engagement for current and future generations. Anyone who wishes to spark change and engage ordinary citizens in a discourse that is rightfully theirs will be inspired by this book.

 

Beyond Zuccotti Park was a particularly fascinating read because of its multitude of perspectives. Authors range from activists who actually participated in the protests at Occupy Wall Street to those who witnessed change in other countries like Iran, and finally to leaders of organizations that help shape public spaces in New York City. They use references from other movements in other places; for example, professor and doctor Mindy Fullilove of Columbia University gives a fascinating account of Occupy Pittsburgh and the humble origins of Freedom Corner, and Iranians Sadra Shahab (urban planner and civil rights activist) and Shirin Barghi (journalist) offer an insightful comparison between the consequences of public protests in Iran and the United States.

 

Moreover, the publishers thoughtfully recognize that civic engagement is not only the responsibility of occupiers and protesters. For instance, authors like Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, discuss how the government has also played a large role in making cities more accessible and welcome to the public…

 

By launching a riveting discourse about the role and impact of public spaces, Beyond Zuccotti Park not only encourages us to reflect upon the rights we have as citizens of a democracy, but to also get on our feet and seize the opportunity to fully the embrace these rights in order to create positive change in our communities.

 

Read the full review here.