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State University of New York Press
The Beach Beneath the Streets: Contesting New York City's Public Spaces

The Beach Beneath the Streets: Contesting New York City's Public Spaces

by Benjamin Heim Shepard, Gregory Smithsimon
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Examines New York City as a paradigmatic example of the tensions between privatization and public uses of space in the contemporary U.S.

Focusing on the liberating promise of public space, The Beach Beneath the Streets examines the activist struggles of communities in New York City—queer youth of color, gardeners, cyclists, and anti-gentrification activists—as they transform streets, piers, and vacant lots into everyday sites for autonomy, imagination, identity formation, creativity, problem solving, and even democratic renewal. Through ethnographic accounts of contests over New York City’s public spaces that highlight the tension between resistance and repression, Shepard and Smithsimon identify how changes in the control of public spaces—parks, street corners, and plazas—have reliably foreshadowed elites’ shifting designs on the city at large. With an innovative taxonomy of public space, the authors frame the ways spaces as diverse as gated enclaves, luxury shopping malls, collapsing piers and street protests can be understood in relation to one another. Synthesizing the fifty-year history of New York’s neoliberal transformation and the social movements which have opposed the process, The Beach Beneath the Streets captures the dynamics at work in the ongoing shaping of urban spaces into places of repression, expression, control, and creativity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781438436203
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Publication date: 06/03/2011
Series: Excelsior Editions Series
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Benjamin Shepard is Assistant Professor of Human Services at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. He is the author or editor of several books, including White Nights and Ascending Shadows: An Oral History of the San Francisco AIDS Empidemic, and From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization.

Gregory Smithsimon is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College, CUNY.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Part 1 Repression 1

Introduction: Control, Exclusion, and Play in Today's Future City 3

Chapter 1 Seeing Space through Exclusion and Control 23

Chapter 2 Dispersing the Crowd: Bonus Plazas and the Creation or Public Space 51

Chapter 3 The City as Seen from the Plaza: Changing Regimes of Private Control 71

Part 2 Resistance 91

Introductory Notes to Part 2 93

Chapter 4 Fences and Piers: An Investigation of a Disappearing Queer Public Space 99

Chapter 5 "If We Can't Dance It's Not Our Revolution": Reclaiming the Streets and Creating Autonomous Space 127

Chapter 6 Gardens, Streets, and Convivial Places: The Struggle for a Ludic Counterpublic 147

Chapter 7 From Contested to Popular Space: New York's Bike Lane Liberation Clowns 183

Chapter 8 Conclusion: This Land is Your Land? 197

Notes 213

References 221

Index 243

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